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‘Denuclearization’: Donald Trump teases ahead of talks with Kim Jong-un

Day before leaving for the upcoming Hanoi summit, Trump teased the prospect of denuclearization as an outcome with a question mark and said Chairman Kim Jong-un is aware North Korea could become one of the “great economic powers” if it gave up its nuclear weapons.

world Updated: Feb 24, 2019 21:45 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times, Washington
US President Donald Trump.
US President Donald Trump.(Bloomberg file photo)
         

Day before leaving for the upcoming Hanoi summit, President Donald Trump teased the prospect of denuclearization as an outcome with a question mark and said Chairman Kim Jong-un is aware North Korea could become one of the “great economic powers” if it gave up its nuclear weapons.

Denuclearization of the Korean peninsula — getting rid of North Korea’s nuclear weapons, essentially — is the chief US goal but the two sides remain far apart on it and President Trump is under pressure to show progress on one of his administration’s signature foreign policy initiative amidst criticism that he has been played so far by the younger Chairman Kim.

“I don’t know if North Korea has made the choice to denuclearize,” a senior administration official said last week, previewing summit.

Trump leaves for Hanoi, Vietnam Monday morning and will Kim, who is already on his way by train, on Wednesday and Thursday. US and North Korean negotiators have reached in advance and hammering out outcomes, if any, that could include the two countries exchanging liaison offices.

Trump and Kim will hold multiple meetings, following the Singapore template from last summer, their first summit — a one-on-one, then one with their officials and a lunch, US officials have said.

“We both expect a continuation of the progress made at first Summit in Singapore,” Trump wrote on Twitter Sunday.

“Denuclearization?” he ended that post with a question mark.

Also read | ‘Very, very bad situation between India and Pakistan’: Trump on Pulwama attack

But did not provide an answer. He went on, instead, reprise for North Korea the prospect of economic prosperity in exchange for giving up its nuclear weapons programme: “Chairman Kim realizes, perhaps better than anyone else, that without nuclear weapons, his country could fast become one of the great economic powers anywhere in the World. Because of its location and people (and him), it has more potential for rapid growth than any other nation!”

Complete and verifiable denuclearization by North Korea is the key US goal but experts and US intelligence officials insist Pyongyang has not even made a start yet, though they agree it has also not conducted nuclear and missile tests since the two sides began talking earlier 2018, leading up to the June summit.

North Korea is seeking, in return, a peace treaty to formally end the Korean war to replace the 1953 armistice, lifting of economic sanctions, and security guarantees. Kim hasn’t managed any of that yet yet, but his June meeting with Trump has given him a leg up over his father and grandfather, who ruled the country before him, as the first North Korean leader to meet a sitting American president.

Also read | ‘Get Trump alone’: Kim Jong Un’s game plan ahead of Vietnam summit

First Published: Feb 24, 2019 21:42 IST