When President Donald Trump visited Singapore earlier this year to meet with Kim Jong-Un, leader of North Korea, he made history as the first sitting United States president to meet with a North Korean leader. The summit was highly controversial in itself; some saw it as an unprecedented achievement by President Trump that indicated peace and denuclearization were possible. Others believed that Trump’s behavior and rhetoric at the summit showed that he was unwilling to stand up to Kim, and even that he admired and respected the North Korean leader’s political decisions. Regardless, the summit did produce a shocking and encouraging announcement: Kim Jong-Un reaffirmed his commitment to denuclearization of the entire Korean Peninsula.
Photo: Science in HD on Unsplash
This announcement signaled a shift in Trump’s attitude and policies towards North Korea—after all, earlier this year on January 2, he tweeted , “North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the ‘Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.’ Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!" It seemed at the start of this year that the two leaders were inching towards war. This impression was further reinforced when, on May 24, Trump canceled the planned summit meeting in Singapore. However, about a week after announcing its cancellation, on June 1, Trump said he would, in fact, go through with the scheduled meeting—which he did, on June 12.
Since the summit, however, North Korea has not made much progress in following through on their promise. President Trump, as a gesture of goodwill, suspended military exercises in South Korea, which some critics called a ill-advised preemptive move, seeing as North Korea had not given any indication they were going to move forward with the agreement. And according to a recent report released by the United Nations, North Korea “has not stopped its nuclear and missile programs." The report claims that North Korea has continued petroleum transfers and coal transfers at sea in spite of sanctions from the security council, in addition to other suspicious activities (such as improving infrastructure at nuclear research centers).
In much more recent developments, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit to Pyongyang, capital of North Korea, was canceled by President Trump. After top North Korean officials sent a letter saying that denuclearization talks could “fall apart", citing the fact that the US has failed to take steps to sign a peace treaty formally ending the Korean war. South and North Korea have taken steps to formally end the war, but the lack of action from the US (which would require a two-thirds vote of approval in the Senate) has frustrated North Korea. So despite Pompeo’s plans for the visit to Pyongyang, in light of the North Korean letter, President Trump decided to cancel his trip, saying on Twitter, “I have asked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo not to go to North Korea, at this time, because I feel we are not making sufficient progress with respect to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula…."
Moreover, the US is not the only country demanding denuclearization from North Korea. South Korea has been in talks with their northern counterparts for some time regarding nuclear weapons. The South Korean leader Moon Jae-in will be meeting with Kim next month in Pyongyang to discuss denuclearization. The two leaders met back on April 27 of this year, and their diplomatic relations appear to be strengthening, with a common goal of denuclearization. So while the US may not be able to maintain a diplomatic relationship to achieve the aims of the Singapore summit, South Korea is working to reach the same end goal the US is hoping for.