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Trump, Kim and the question of what their summit has brought so far

At their historic meeting, Trump and Kim vaguely agreed to nuclear disarmament. Concrete steps or a schedule were nil. What has been achieved since then?

When it comes to Donald Trump  , the situation is clear. The US President never tires of praising his summit with  Kim Jong Un as a success: the nuclear threat from North Korea is banned, there is great progress, there are many good talks with the North Koreans.

But two months after Trump’s handshake with the North Korean ruler on June 12 in Singapore, the situation is by no means as positive as Trump’s. The hoped-for big litter in the dismantling of the North Korean nuclear program has so far remained. Progress in disarmament efforts has been rather slow so far. The current mood on the Korean peninsula could tip again, warn observers. And in the White House, not everyone is publicly as optimistic as the president.

For example, Trump’s National Security Advisor John Bolton Pyongyang this week accused him of not taking any concrete steps towards nuclear disarmament. The US government is sticking to the summit’s agreement that North Koreans have not done anything necessary to denuclearise, Bolton said.

Trump and Kim had signed a vague memorandum of understanding at the summit, in which the North Korean ruler reiterated his readiness for “comprehensive” nuclear disarmament. Concrete steps were not agreed.

No rocket launch from North Korea – a success?

The US deployed a joint military maneuver with South Korea after the meeting , which is considered a major concession to North Korea.

Trump claims it is a success that North Korea has not fired a rocket for months. This is also the point of reference of the South Korean government. “This year, North Korea has neither undertaken a nuclear test nor a rocket launch,” according to a report released several days ago by the presidential office in Seoul.

North Korea has “taken the first steps to eliminate the risk of war on the Korean peninsula at the roots by mining its nuclear test and missile test facilities,” it says. Recently, US experts used satellite imagery to show that North Korea is dismantling important parts of a rocket launch facility in Sohae.

On the other hand, the weeks since the meeting between Kim and Trump have not yet produced the desired detailed roadmap for nuclear disarmament. North Korea seemed to trust that dismantling its Trump nuclear weapons and missile test facilities would be considered a serious step towards “complete denuclearization,” North Korean expert Scott Snyder wrote in a blog on the US think tank Council on Foreign Relations.

Finally, Kim Jong Un promised denuclearization not only to Trump, but also to Chinese President Xi Jinping and South Korean President Moon Jae In. And confidence is needed, because the measures of North Korea have so far been carried out without “adequate external review,” says Snyder.

Ambiguity about the term

The disarmament negotiations continue to drag on. There is still disagreement between North Korea and the US about what is meant by the vague concept of denuclearization. For the internationally isolated leadership in North Korea, nuclear weapons are a guarantee of survival, which does not surrender so quickly.

From the point of view of South Korea and the US, it is not only about eliminating nuclear warheads and missiles, but also about the fact that North Korea is permanently deprived of the basis for the production of nuclear-weapon-capable material.

From the point of view of South Korea and the US, it is not only about eliminating nuclear warheads and missiles, but also about the fact that North Korea is permanently deprived of the basis for the production of nuclear-weapon-capable material.

“Our position is that UN sanctions (against North Korea) will be maintained and conscientiously implemented until we see concrete action for complete denuclearization,” said South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung Wha.

With reelection Trump everything would be different

Does Kim play on time, as some observers suspect? “North Korea may never have looked for a one-sided disarmament,” says the representative of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation in Seoul, Lars-André Richter. He did not rule out that Pyongyang wanted to test how far it could go in the negotiations with the US. “It could be that North Korea already switched to Trump for the time.” Should Trump be re-elected in 2020, the situation would be different.

The leadership in Pyongyang aims to stimulate its own economy through cooperation with South Korea, China and other countries. Investment and foreign trade should help to create wealth in the isolated country. But it must first shake off the international sanctions.

In this whole mixed situation, China plays a decisive role. The influential role played by Beijing at the Singapore Summit two months ago was demonstrated by the jumbo jet of the Chinese airline Air China, in which North Korea’s ruler Kim Jong Un arrived. Protecting power is certainly going too far, but China serves North Korea today as a kind of “big brother”.

Since the visit of Kim to state and party leader Xi Jinping in China, Beijing has been a big part of Beijing again. The traditional friendship “unleashes new vitality,” China Foreign Minister Wang Yi praised at a meeting with his North Korean counterpart Ri Yong Ho at the Asean Forum in Singapore this weekend.

“Blooming” friendship between China and North Korea?

For Beijing, the summit averted the immediate danger of war and secured the desired status quo. Nuclear disarmament is an issue, but more for the future. China hopes that the US will “take account of North Korea’s legitimate security interests and halfway toward the country,” Wang Yi said. Thus he strengthened North Korea demonstratively back. His North Korean colleague raved about a “blossoming” friendship.
The US is already accusing China of secretly relaxing the sanctions. Probably not on a grand scale, but according to observers, more trucks are crossing the border into North Korea. US satellites are also seeing illegal oil shipments on the high seas. For example, both Chinese foreign ministers said in their talks that China’s assistance to North Korea was “to achieve economic development and improve the standard of living of its people.”
Sanction policy sounds different. China’s willingness to cooperate with Trump has also suffered severely from the escalation in the trade conflict. China’s head of state Xi is angry, has no confidence in Trump, who is tightening the thumbscrews with new punitive tariffs. Why should Xi help him with North Korea?

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