Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un have agreed to meet, a prospect that seemed unthinkable when the leaders of the U.S. and North Korea were exchanging insults and threats. What’s more, Kim has said he’s willing to consider relinquishing his nuclear arsenal, according to the first delegation of South Korean officials to meet with him. But more than two decades of nuclear talks have repeatedly broken down, with each side accusing the other of reneging on various commitments. North Korea in the meantime has gotten ever closer to obtaining the ability to strike the U.S. mainland with a nuclear weapon, adding urgency to the discussions.
1. When will Trump and Kim meet?
South Korean National Security Council chief Chung Eui-yong told reporters in Washington that the meeting would take place by May. Trump has confirmed via Twitter that a meeting is “being planned.” White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the meeting would occur at “a place and time to be determined.”
2. What do the two sides want?
The U.S. wants North Korea to dismantle its nuclear-weapons program, in no small part because Kim has directly threatened to use nuclear arms against Americans. Trump has insisted, as did previous U.S. administrations, that North Korea must be willing to commit to giving up its nuclear weapons before talks could begin — a condition that Kim apparently is now willing to meet. North Korea wants a guarantee of its own security, with a South Korean newspaper saying Monday that Kim would seek a peace treaty. It’s unclear whether Kim would also push for U.S. troops to leave South Korea.
3. Why does North Korea worry about its security?
The 1950s conflict between communist North Korea, backed by China and the Soviet Union, and South Korea, backed by the U.S., ended without a peace treaty. As such, the U.S. and North Korea are technically still at war. Kim, like his father and grandfather, views the U.S. — which stations some 30,000 troops in South Korea and conducts drills with its military — as an existential threat. Recent American military campaigns in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya have only reinforced his view that nuclear weapons are necessary to deter a U.S. invasion.
4. What would be the point of negotiations?
Diplomats have long talked about seeking a grand bargain: In exchange for economic assistance and security guarantees, North Korea would give up its nuclear-weapons program in a way that could be verified by outsiders. Others argue the most that talks could achieve at this point would be a freeze on the program.
5. Has any country willingly given up its nuclear weapons?
South Africa is considered to be the only nation to have successfully built its own nuclear weapons, then abandoned them. When the Soviet Union broke up in 1991, some of its nuclear weaponry was left in former republics Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan, and all three — eventually — arranged for them to be eliminated or transferred to Russia. The leaders of Iraq and Libya — Saddam Hussein and Moammar Al Qaddafi — each agreed to cease nuclear development before it yielded viable weapons: a key reason Kim has been reluctant to give up his weapons.
6. How advanced are Kim’s weapons and missiles programs?
North Korea has detonated what it said was a hydrogen bomb capable of riding an intercontinental ballistic missile to big cities across the U.S. One study concluded Kim’s military had successfully produced a miniaturized nuclear warhead that can fit inside its missiles. But the U.S. military said as recently as January that North Korea hasn’t demonstrated essential capabilities for a missile, including whether such a device could survive reentry into the atmosphere and hit a target accurately. In an address in December, Kim said his nation’s nuclear deterrent was “irreversible.”
7. Why, then, might talks take place now?
Kim may see himself negotiating from a position of strength, and his carefully curated public image within his nation would get a boost from him sitting down with the president of the U.S. He also could be feeling the bite of tougher sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council, the U.S. and the European Union. North Korea’s currency reserves have shrunk enough to crimp imports of essential products, some analysts say. It’s also possible that Kim sees an opportunity to create dissension between the U.S. and South Korea, which had previously differed on the benefit of dialogue. And there’s always the chance he wanted to avoid a war before his program became too advanced. Moon Jae-in, who became president of South Korea in May, has encouraged talks — prompting Trump to accuse him of “appeasement.” The U.S. says North Korea has a track record of escalating and then lowering nuclear tensions to win diplomatic and economic benefits; North Korea points the finger at the Americans for breaking their commitments.
8. How has this played out in the past?
A 1994 accord to freeze the nuclear program, agreed under Democratic President Bill Clinton, collapsed in 2002 after Republican President George W. Bush took office and the U.S. accused North Korea of having a secret program to produce highly enriched uranium
— a claim the North Koreans disputed and which was never proved. Bush had just used his 2002 state of union address to lump North Korea in with Iraq and Iran as the “axis of evil.”A denuclearization agreement sealed during six-party talks in 2005 never got off the ground after the U.S.
— during the same week the agreement was signed
— sanctioned a Macao-based bank for laundering North Korean money and encouraged other governments to cut financial ties with Pyongyang. North Korea immediately boycotted the six-party talks and requested bilateral talks with the U.S., which rebuffed the idea.In October 2006, North Korea conducted its first nuclear test, prompting another round of multinational talks that produced an agreement to close its nuclear facilities in exchange for food and energy assistance. That accord collapsed in 2009 following a dispute over inspections.9. Is accepting North Korea as a nuclear-armed state an option?Some analysts have suggested that’s the best way to ease the current tensions, but no major country has said yet that it would go that far. Doing so could lead South Korea, Japan and perhaps Taiwan to seek their own nuclear arms
— undermining, perhaps fatally, the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. When tensions were strained last year, South Korean politicians discussed the redeployment of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons, which were removed in the early 1990s.
courtesy : Bloomberg , Wow Keren