By David C. Kang
A U.S.-DPRK summit is still likely to happen. Both sides clearly want a summit to take place. However, whether the summit still takes place on June 12, or whether it takes place later, North Korea in particular is in a better position today than it was six months ago, and the U.S. bargaining position is weaker. In the current environment, there is almost no possibility of increased “maximum pressure” through economic sanctions; support for any type of bloody-nose U.S. first-strike has largely evaporated, and the U.S.—not North Korea—appears the truculent negotiating partner.
The past few days of U.S.-DPRK relations have been dizzying. Last week, North Korea began to show signs of backing out of the summit, attacking President Trump and in particular National Security advisor Bolton. On Thursday, President Trump released a letter he had sent to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, canceling the June 12th summit scheduled for Singapore. Trump cited North Korea’s unrelenting hostility. North Korea responded by actually taking the high road, saying that they remain open to discussing issues of importance. By Friday, Trump had begun to talk about the summit possibly still happening, saying, “We are in contact with North Korea.” On Saturday, North and South Korea met for a second time at the DMZ—South Korean president Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un spending two hours talking face to face.
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