South Korean President Moon Jae-in will travel to Pyongyang on Tuesday and meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un for the third time this year, as both sides continue to negotiate for a possible solution to the nuclear crisis on the Korean Peninsula.
Maximum Pressure No More
As negotiations between North Korea and the United States stalled in recent months, with Washington accusing Pyongyang of taking little substantial action on denuclearization, the inter-Korean summit this week has attracted global attention for its possibility to offer breakthroughs.
However, political analysts argued that North Korea has no motivation to offer consequential concessions on denuclearization, since the nation is no longer facing the same kind of "maximum pressure" policy from the international community as it did last year.
"Where is North Korea right now? I don’t think North Korea is in any rush to denuclearize soon. Look at the situation that they’re in. They’ve never declared to go beyond what they’ve already stated as far as denuclearization is concerned. The [economic] sanctions are still in place, but military and diplomatic pressure is off. North Korea is in a really good place, similar to the pre-"maximum pressure" era under the [former US President Barack] Obama administration. I think they’re very comfortable where they’re right now. I don’t foresee them making any changes to their current position," James Kim, an international relations expert at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies in Seoul, told Sputnik.
In an attempt to force North Korea to give up its nuclear arms program last year, after Pyongyang tested a series of advanced intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and its most powerful nuclear bomb, US President Donald Trump initiated a campaign, dubbed "maximum pressure," to combine strict economic sanctions with diplomatic isolation and threats of military actions.
Many countries, including North Korea’s largest trade partner China, got on board with the "maximum pressure" campaign and voted in support of stringent United Nations resolutions aiming to cut off the financial resources Pyongyang relied on to support its nuclear program. A number of countries also joined the US-led efforts to isolate North Korea diplomatically, highlighted by Malaysia’s decision to close its embassy in Pyongyang last October.
However, following Kim’s decision to seek a diplomatic solution to the nuclear crisis on the Korean Peninsula from the beginning of this year, the North Korean leader has successfully broken out of global diplomatic isolation and held summit meetings with leaders of South Korea, China and the United States.
Playing the Trump Card
Despite making pledges on completely denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula during his previous meetings with Moon and Trump, Kim has not taken concrete steps toward this process, such as offering a detailed list of the nation’s nuclear arsenal or agreeing to a specific timeline on when to get rid of nuclear weapons. The lack of substantial progress on denuclearization led to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo canceling a planned trip to Pyongyang in August.
Professor Kim from Asan Institute for Policy Studies explained that the inter-Korean summit this week was unlikely to bring any breakthrough on denuclearization negotiations as Pyongyang would discuss this issue with Washington only.
"Any negotiations that have anything of consequence on denuclearization, North Korea would want to do that part of the negotiation with the United States," he said.
"Whenever Trump has talked tough, North Korea has always taken a step backward and reassesses the situation. This is very uncharacteristic of North Korea. They [North Koreans] are usually very defiant in the face of adversity. This makes [Trump] look very effective, without him being effective at all. [North Koreans] have learned how to play the Trump card," he said.
Nevertheless, US academics who used to teach at top universities in North Korea expressed hope that the South Korean president could convince Kim to hold another meeting with Trump.
"In my mind, the major effort president Moon will try to make is to convince Kim Jong Un to meet with Trump one more time. The United States has asked North Korea to offer a list of its nuclear arsenal. Maybe after North Korea handing this list to the United States, the leaders can finally reach an agreement and declare the end of the Korean War. That’s what I really hope [to happen]," Park Chan-mo, Chancellor of Pyongyang University of Science and Technology in North Korea, told Sputnik.
As someone who experienced the Korean War personally, Park stressed the importance of peace on the peninsula.
"The most important thing is peace on the Korean Peninsula. That’s what I really hope to see, because I went through the Korean War personally. When I was 15 years old, the Korean War broke. I suffered so much. So I really hate the war," he said.
The professor expressed hope that North Korea and the United States could find a peaceful solution to the nuclear crisis on the Korean Peninsula and have a chance to return to Pyongyang to continue teaching in the near future.
The views and opinions expressed by the speaker do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.