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Former Washington Journalist
Contributor on The Bipartisan Press
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With his second summit with the leader of North Korea less than a week away, the challenge will be whether Donald Trump is interested in achieving diplomatic progress or simply positive public relations, according to a former East Asian affairs expert at the US State Department.
Trump is set to meet North Korea leader Kim Jong Un on Feb. 27 and 28 in Vietnam to build on the pair’s initial historic summit last year in Singapore.
The previous meeting was the first face-to-face encounter between a sitting US president and a leader of the isolated nation located north of the 38th parallel since the cease-fire ended hostilities known as the 1950-1953 Korean War.
Last year’s summit between Trump and Kim came after an exchange of insults, in which Trump referred to Kim as “Rocket Man” and Kim responded by calling Trump a “dotard.”
The main issue for Trump and Kim is the denuclearization of North Korea.
“After a year of diplomacy with little progress, Trump needs to focus on getting North Korea to make concrete, verifiable concessions on its nuclear program,” says Michael Fuchs, a former State Department official who specializes in East Asian affairs and currently a senior fellow at the left-leaning think tank Center for American Progress. “Trump needs to show that he’s focused on good outcomes, not just good headlines.”
Fuchs co-wrote an analysis of the North Korea diplomatic situation for the Center for American Progress, and the major points are:
- Diplomacy with North Korea is necessary, but effective diplomacy also requires lower-level talks that go on for months; without real diplomacy, summit meetings are a show without substance.
- Trump seems to care more about generating headlines than making a good deal, and that behavior is creating a rift between him and the intelligence community.
- Since diplomacy began last year, North Korea has taken no concrete actions toward denuclearization and has continued building more nuclear weapons and missiles.
- The United States must beware of the possibility that Trump could make a deal that is good for North Korea and bad for the United States as well as our key allies Japan and South Korea.
- The United States should make clear that it is willing to change its relationship with North Korea, but only if Pyongyang verifiably changes its behavior.
- Trump must focus on human rights and ensure that humanitarian groups can access North Korea.
Of course, its up to Trump to decide what he wants to do with North Korea.