03:44 GMT28 February 2020
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    The second much-anticipated "denuclearization" summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un ended abruptly on 28 February, raising concerns among the international community and observers that the meeting in Hanoi reportedly signals an end to Kim's promises of dismantling Pyongyang's nuclear and ICBM facilities.

    Seoul and Washington announced Saturday that the two countries will end large-scale joint annual drills — Key Resolve and Foal Eagle — in a bid to ease tensions on the Korean peninsula and to facilitate the denuclearization process.

    Sputnik has discussed the issue Jenny Town, the managing editor of monitoring group 38 North.

    Sputnik: Various US media outlets presented the outcome of the US-North Korean talks as a Trump failure. In your view how successful were the talks?

    Jenny Town: It is disappointing to find out how far away from having an agreement we actually were.

    Given how wide that gap was, it would have been prudent to postpone the summit to give time to the working level to figure out whether a compromise could be made.

    Sputnik: Why is the media portraying the talks in such a way?

    Jenny Town: It's an understandable narrative. High-level summits are generally not held for negotiating purposes but at the end of a negotiation process to sign off on agreements or after progress has already been made on agreements.

    So the expected outcome of a summit is a deal/agreement. Ending a summit without one is generally considered a failure.

    The question is now what comes next? For those who see the summit as not a failure point to the relatively positive portrayal of the summit talks, leaving the door open for negotiation and assume negotiations will actually continue.

    That is certainly possible. But it's also possible that whatever happened in Hanoi has set back this process for a while.

    Sputnik: How proportionate are the demands of both sides of the peace talks?

    Jenny Town: Information about what happened is still coming out and there are still discrepancies about what each side proposed.

    It does seem that both sides had last-minute proposals that were introduced at Hanoi that were not part of the pre-summit negotiations. While the North Koreans claim to have only asked for partial sanctions relief, the parts that they wanted were a pretty big ask for a first phase agreement.

    But it's unclear what more the US asked for in return.

    Some accounts say one more uranium enrichment facility outside of Yongbyon, other accounts indicate Trump may have asked for everything all at once, essentially setting us back to square one of unrealistic demands.

    Sputnik: How likely is it that progress will be made after all and a deal will be concluded between the two?

    Jenny Town: Continuing negotiations is possible, as both sides refrained from characterizing the summit in a negative way and they have a better understanding of what both sides are aiming to achieve in an interim agreement.

    However, there must be frustration and criticism on both sides that could stall efforts to get back to working-level negotiations. The longer it takes to get back, the higher the risk of other issues taking over Trump's attention.

    Sputnik: President Moon Jae-in underlined that Seoul should take the lead in international efforts to deal with the North. What input could the South contribute to help usher peace on the peninsula?

    Jenny Town: Seoul certainly plays a role in engagements with North Korea, but it is not the lead when it comes to nuclear issues and will find it difficult to maintain the pace they have tried to set with the inter-Korean agenda without sanctions relief to be able to restart inter-Korean economic cooperation.

    Moon's biggest challenge now is going to be trying to get both sides to refocus on this issue to try to get them back to working-level talks as soon as possible.

    Sputnik: According to some reports Seoul and Washington are set to end their annual military drills. What impact can this have on negotiations between North Korea and the US? If the US does halt the drills, what steps can we expect from Pyongyang?

    Jenny Town: Changing the way military drills are conducted, especially in a changed political environment where tensions have been reduced, can be useful.

    There are many ways to maintain military readiness without conducting large-scale live-fire drills the way the major joint military exercises have been designed.

    However, this should be a decision made by the US and ROK, as an alliance decision, not a unilateral decision or bargaining chip of the US. It's these kinds of unilateral decisions (that have come from both sides) that are causing unnecessary strains in the US-ROK alliance at a time when better and more robust coordination is needed.

    Views and opinions expressed in this article are those of Jenny Town and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


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    concerns, denuclearization, talks, Trump-Kim Hanoi Summit, Jenny Town, Democratic Republic of North Korea (DPRK), United States
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