The two countries are still formally in a state of war with one another, though President Trump promised that the conflict might officially end sometime soon after his very productive talks with Chairman Kim. Their joint statement saw Kim, to the surprise of many across the world, agreeing to denuclearization and even to the establishment of a new era of relations with the US, proving that the two leaders are ready to put their countries' divisive pasts behind them in forging a new future together.
It remains to be seen exactly what the ace up Trump's sleeve was that ultimately got Kim to unprecedentedly agree to begin the process of parting with his cherished nuclear weapons, but what's publicly known so far is that the US promised so-called "security guarantees" to North Korea and had been strangling its economy through the most robust multilateral sanctions regime that the world had hitherto witnessed. The military aspect of guaranteeing North Korea's security is very unclear seeing as how something similar had been promised to Libya a decade and a half ago under comparable circumstances but ended in the public lynching of Muammar Gaddafi after a NATO-led war on his country.
Kim's government had previously expressed its outrage at National Security Advisor John Bolton and Vice President Mike Pence's provocative comparisons of their negotiated denuclearization with what those two referred to as the "Libyan model", and it was precisely because of Pyongyang's principled reaction that Trump called off the summit a few weeks ago before changing his mind after speaking with his counterpart. Although details have been scant about this aspect of the Trump-Kim deal, what's more widely known is that the forthcoming sanctions relief that will naturally accompany denuclearization could be a godsend for the communist country.
North Korea's international isolation over the decades has led to rampant underdevelopment and rumors of occasional humanitarian crises, but on the flip side, this "virgin economy" would be an investor's paradise if the Americans could tap into it because of its low wages, enormous rare earth mineral potential, and strategic location. That being said, it's precisely because of North Korea's proximity to China that Beijing has a stake in the outcome of denuclearization and the political consequences of what comes afterwards, thus reinforcing the "Hermit Kingdom's" role as perhaps the most important geopolitical poker chip in US-Chinese relations right now.
Andrew Korybko is joined by Haneul Na'avi, contributing writer on political economy and geopolitics for Fort Russ, Asia Times, The Duran, and Global Village Space, and Angela Han, Korean-born Australian who runs an NGO that sustainably rebuilds villages in Nepal that were devastated by the 2015 earthquakes.
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