President Trump is expected to meet with North Korean President Kim Jong Un sometime in the coming months to discuss denuclearization. Plans for the details of the meeting are currently being worked on behind the scenes. According to White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the meeting will not take place without “concrete actions that match the promises that have been made by North Korea.” What those concrete actions are remain to be seen.
The question is whether this meeting, which the administration is not calling official negotiations, will create any different results than the numerous other negotiations and meetings between the U.S. and North Korea that have been going on since the early 1990s. Many promises have been made and broken over the years. What is different this time?
Trump obviously believes that his negotiating skills are superior and will produce different results. There are a few other differences. For example, no official meetings or negotiations have happened between the U.S. and Kim Jong Un. All previous discussions happened with either Kim Jong Il or Kim Il Sung.
Additionally, those leaders were very keen to get sanctions lifted, and to extract promises of aid from the negotiating nations, because North Korea’s economy under their Communist regime was suffering. Kim Jong Un may be in a different position. If estimates in this New York Times piece from last year are true, at least 40 percent of North Korean citizens are engaged in some form of private enterprise, including both market stall and black market sales. The seeming growth of his country’s economy could prove detrimental to Kim’s willingness to bend in the interest of sanction-relief. Does he have other incentives that are strong enough to give up his nuclear ambitions?
Trump is also certainly a factor. Nobody knows exactly how far he is willing to go to ensure that North Korea shuts down its nuclear weapons program, least of all Kim. It will be worth watching to see how this all plays out.