President Trump and Chairman Kim had an historic meeting with one another in Singapore less than a year ago, but hardly anything of substance has been accomplished in the time since, which has led to some observers believing that both men exploited the event for their own purposes. Trump was able to portray himself as a peace-loving president who achieved an unprecedented diplomatic victory amidst the heated Russiagate conspiracy theory distraction at home, while Kim was finally able to have his country emerge from decades of international isolation and be lauded as a responsible member of the international community.
Nevertheless, there does indeed seem to be sincere intent from both leaders to strengthen their surprisingly positive bond with one another and make tangible progress on implementing the "Singapore spirit", ergo the upcoming meeting in Vietnam. The location of their next meeting is immensely symbolic because the Southeast Asian nation is strategically balancing between the US and China and also undertook a series of economic reforms following its own emergence from international isolation in the 1980s, both of which could prospectively be emulated by North Korea as it seeks to do the same pending the success of its denuclearization pledge. Vietnam understands the benefit of having its international and domestic models serve as an inspiration for other "Global South" states, hence why it decided to host the forthcoming meeting.
Returning back to what can be expected from next week's summit, some analysts are predicting that a more concrete "action plan" could be in the works whereby North Korea's tangibly irreversible steps towards denuclearization would be progressively met with the lifting of US sanctions. Few commentators expect that a peace treaty between the two will be signed in the near future, but the successful clinching of the aforementioned accord could institutionalize the intra-Korean rapprochement of the past year and also indefinitely delay the resumption of large-scale US-South Korean military drills. This best-case scenario could really stabilize Northeast Asia, while the worst-case one of retaining the status quo's illusion of stability might give domestic and international detractors of the US-North Korean détente an opportunity to undermine the rhetorical progress that's been made thus far.
Andrew Korybko is joined by Dong-uk Gwak, student from the Hankuk University of Foreign Studies' Graduate School of International Area Studies majoring in the study of Russia & the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and Danny Haiphong, independent journalist and activist and co-author of the upcoming book "American Exceptionalism and American Innocence: a Peoples History of Fake News from the Revolutionary War to the War on Terror".
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