US-North Korean talks still a tentative prospect
10 March 2018
US President Donald Trump’s abrupt about-face in accepting North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s invitation to a summit in May is a measure of the erratic and reckless character of his administration’s foreign policy. Having spent his first year in office threatening North Korea with “total destruction,” Trump has agreed to talks, although this prospect is still tentative.
Even if they proceed, the talks could break down rapidly, creating a more explosive situation on the Korean Peninsula.
Trump and his officials are vowing to maintain “maximum pressure” on North Korea, boasting that this has compelled the Pyongyang regime to discuss denuclearisation. The crippling US and international sanctions against North Korea remain in place, as does the threat of war, underscored by massive joint US-South Korean military exercises, involving hundreds of thousands of troops, that will begin next month.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said the Trump administration wants North Korea to take steps toward denuclearisation before any summit proceeds. “The president will not have the meeting without seeing concrete steps and concrete actions take place by North Korea, so the president is actually getting something,” she insisted.
The basis of any summit remains unclear. South Korean officials who visited North Korea this week announced that Kim was willing to discuss denuclearisation in return for security guarantees from the US. At the same time, Kim reportedly agreed to freeze nuclear and missile testing, and turn a blind eye to joint war games in South Korea.
South Korean officials who flew to Washington to brief the Trump administration provided no further information as to what…