READING THE BOARD: WHAT TO EXPECT FROM THE VIETNAM SUMMIT
Thursday, February 21st – Partnership for a Secure America held the first event in a new series of briefings, the North Korea Summit Series. This lunch briefing will help prepare congressional staff for the upcoming summit between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un, to be held in Vietnam on February 27th-28th. Attendees heard from experts with backgrounds in the U.S. military, intelligence community, and diplomatic corps about the rare opportunities this summit presents, and potential outcomes that may emerge from an agreed settlement.
Opportunities for structured diplomatic engagement between the U.S. government and DPRK’s leadership have been rare. The 1994 Agreed Framework on the 2003 Six Party Talks have been the most noteworthy meetings between the U.S. and DPRK, neither of which took place at the Head of State level. Past efforts at reaching an agreed settlement over DPRK’s nuclear program have been more limited in scope, and difficult to achieve. President Trump’s unprecedented approach to personal diplomacy with Kim Jong-un in pursuit of the goal of complete denuclearization presents a remarkable opportunity for advancing U.S. objectives in East Asia, but is a process sure to be fraught with challenges.
In his remarks, Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Jouas described the nuclear and conventional threats posed by North Korea to the Seoul and the United States. Expanding on North Korea’s conventional threat, he his thoughts on actions that the Kim regime could take to build confidence in negotiations:
“Much is made of North Korea’s nuclear threat, but more salient are the number of rocket, self-propelled, and static artillery pieces dug-in north of the DMZ. If North Korea wants to show that it’s serious about disarmament, these artillery emplacements should be withdrawn to the rear of their territory abutting the DMZ.”
Bruce Klingner of the Heritage Foundation offered his thoughts on how Congress should manage the sanctions regime widely credited with bringing North Korea to the negotiating table:
“We need to see real tangible actions on denuclearization from North Korea before Congress relieves sanctions. Sanctions are one of our must powerful tools in dealing with North Korea, we can’t surrender that leverage without some signs of progress.”
Robert Manning of the Atlantic Council credited President Trump’s unprecedented approach to diplomacy at the head of state level:
“I give President Trump credit for meeting with Kim Jong-un. We’ve been trying to deal with North Korea for 20 odd years and it never occurred to any of us to meet with the leader directly.”
The next event in the North Korea Summit Series will discuss the effects of negotiations with North Korea on the U.S. sanctions regime and joint military exercises on the Korean peninsula.