Second DPRK-U.S. Summit
U.S. Undermines Principle of Action-for-Action
- Nick Lin -
The Second Summit between Chairman Kim Jong Un,
the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), and President
Donald Trump of the United States which took place in Hanoi,
Vietnam February 27 to 28, ended unexpectedly without an
News reports immediately prior to the summit
the working-level meetings leading up to the summit had
tentatively reached agreements to sign a symbolic declaration of
peace that would conclude the Korean War; for the DPRK to
repatriate further remains of U.S. soldiers killed in the Korean
War; and for the DPRK and the U.S. to set up joint liaison
offices in each other's countries. Regarding the nuclear issue
and sanctions, it was said that the DPRK would suspend production
of nuclear materials at the Yongbyon reactor in exchange for the
U.S. urging the UN Security Council to provide the DPRK with
partial sanctions relief, that would facilitate inter-Korean
economic cooperation. None of this came to pass.
Recent developments indicate that a change in
U.S. to unilaterally undermine the principle of action-for-action
necessary for these negotiations, in favour of an "all-or-nothing
approach," prevented a further agreement from being reached at
the Hanoi Summit.
As much as both sides said at the close of the
that no doors have been shut to resolve their differences through
negotiations, departing the summit on good terms and openly
stating their disposition toward future talks, it has now become
clear that as things currently stand there is objectively no
basis on which the DPRK can take part in negotiations when the
U.S. is dictating terms.
In that vein, the DPRK's Vice Foreign Minister
at a briefing for diplomats and foreign media in Pyongyang on
March 15, said the DPRK was deeply disappointed by the failure of
the two sides to reach any agreements at the Hanoi Summit, the
Associated Press reported. She said the DPRK now has no intention
of compromising or continuing talks unless the U.S. takes
measures that are commensurate to the changes the DPRK has taken
-- such as the 15-month moratorium on launches and tests -- and
changes its "political calculation." She suggested that while
Trump was more willing to talk, even highlighting the warm
chemistry between the two leaders as "mysteriously wonderful," an
atmosphere of hostility and mistrust was created by the
uncompromising demands of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and
National Security Adviser John Bolton. She noted that statements
by senior Trump advisers since the summit have further worsened
the climate. "Whether to maintain this moratorium or not is the
decision of our chairman of the state affairs commission," she
said, adding that this decision will be made shortly.
Meanwhile, the U.S. and south Korea announced
2, U.S. Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan and south
Korean Minister of National Defense Jeong Kyeong-doo decided to
end the Key Resolve and Foal Eagle series of military exercises,
according to a Pentagon statement, in an effort to "achieve
complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula."
The main factor not to be forgotten in all this
the Korean people and their initiatives to strengthen
inter-Korean relations. They remain the crux of resolving the
intertwined issues of peace (including the removal of the U.S.
nuclear threat) and reunification. The Korean people and their
leadership have astutely assessed that inter-Korean relations
should develop at the pace they themselves set, and are not tied
to the development of DPRK-U.S. relations and its
Inter-Korean relations will continue to develop despite the
truncated Hanoi Summit, and will surely contribute to the
conditions needed for the DPRK and the U.S. to return to the
table to make the required progress.
Proceedings of the Summit
The first day of the summit began with President
Chairman Kim shaking hands and exchanging greetings, with some
brief informal remarks to the press about 6:30 pm local time.
This was followed by conversation, and a short one-on-one summit,
before the two sides met for dinner at the Sofitel Legend
Metropole Hanoi. Also present at the dinner were Secretary of
State Mike Pompeo and acting White House Chief of Staff Mick
Mulvaney on the U.S. side, and Workers' Party of Korea Vice
Chairman and United Front Department Director Kim Yong Chol and
Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho on the DPRK side.
President Trump and Chairman Kim began the second
summit with a one-on-one meeting, followed by an expanded
meeting. Altogether the meetings lasted about four-and-a-half
hours. A working lunch had been scheduled for noon, with a
signing ceremony for an expected agreement to follow around 2:00
pm. Trump was to give a press conference at 4:00 pm.
Around 12:30 pm, White House Press Secretary
announced that the summit would be wrapping up in the next 30 to
45 minutes, and that Trump's press conference had been moved to
2:00 pm. "No agreement was reached at this time, but their
respective teams look forward to meeting in the future," Sanders
U.S. Closing Press Conference and Stands Taken
Trump said of the summit: "We had a really, I
productive time. We thought, and I thought, and Secretary Pompeo
felt that it wasn't a good thing to be signing anything. I'm
going to let [U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo] speak about
it. [...] We spent pretty much all day with Kim Jong Un [...] And
I think our relationship is very strong. But at this time -- we
had some options, and at this time we decided not to do any of
the options. And we'll see where that goes. But it was a very
interesting two days. And I think, actually, it was a very
productive two days. But sometimes you have to walk, and this was
just one of those times. And I'll let Mike speak to that for a
couple of minutes, please."
Secretary Pompeo remarked in a similar vein: "We
working, our teams -- the team that I brought to bear, as well as
the north Koreans -- for weeks to try and develop a path forward
so at the summit we could make a big step -- a big step along the
way towards what the two leaders had agreed to back in Singapore,
in June of last year.
"We made real progress. And indeed we made even
when the two leaders met over the last 24, 36 hours.
Unfortunately, we didn't get all the way. We didn't get to
something that ultimately made sense for the United States of
America. I think Chairman Kim was hopeful that we would. We asked
him to do more. He was unprepared to do that. But I'm still
optimistic. I'm hopeful that the teams will get back together in
the days and weeks ahead, and continue to work out what's a very
"We have said, since the beginning, that this
time. Our teams have gotten to know each other better. We know
what the limits are. We know where some of the challenges
"And I think as we continue to work on this in
weeks ahead, we can make progress so that we can ultimately
achieve what it is that the world wants, which is to denuclearize
north Korea, to reduce risk for the American people and the
people all around the world." In a March 4 speech in Iowa, Pompeo
said that he hoped to send a team of negotiators to Pyongyang in
the coming weeks, although he had yet to hear back from the DPRK
on the matter.
Answering a question from a reporter about the
a third summit, Trump replied, "Basically, they wanted the
sanctions lifted in their entirety, and we couldn't do that.
[Emphasis added.] They were willing to denuke a large portion of
the areas that we wanted, but we couldn't give up all of the
sanctions for that. So we continue to work, and we'll see. But we
had to walk away from that particular suggestion. We had to walk
away from that."
Trump's claim that the DPRK had requested
could not accept was later revealed to be the opposite of what
took place. In fact it was the U.S. that requested full
denuclearization by the DPRK before it would consider providing
any sanctions relief, which the DPRK clarified in its own press
conference later that day (see below).
Remarks by U.S. Special Representative for North
Stephen E. Biegen following the Hanoi Summit indicate a
significant change in the U.S. position that undermines the
requirement for a mutual step-by-step/action-for-action process
by both sides as the basis for trust and progress in DPRK-U.S.
relations, a change from the position he gave not long before the
In a January 31 speech at Stanford University,
remarked, "For our part, we have communicated to our north Korean
counterparts that we are prepared to pursue -- simultaneously and
in parallel -- all of the commitments our two leaders made in
their joint statement at Singapore last summer, along with
planning for a bright future for the Korean people and the new
opportunities that will open when sanctions are lifted and the
Korean Peninsula is at peace, provided that north Korea likewise
fulfills its commitment to final, fully verified
"Chairman Kim qualified next steps on north
and uranium enrichment facilities upon the United States taking
corresponding measures. Exactly what these measures are, are a
matter I plan to discuss with my north Korean counterpart during
our next set of meetings. From our side, we are prepared to
discuss many actions that could help build trust between our two
countries and advance further progress in parallel on the
Singapore summit objectives of transforming relations,
establishing a permanent peace regime on the peninsula, and
On March 11, Biegun, speaking at the 2019
International Nuclear Policy Conference, stated, "We are not
going to do denuclearization incrementally. The President has
been clear on that and that is a position around which the U.S.
government has complete unity. Our goal, our objective is the
final fully verified denuclearization of north Korea." Biegun
went on to repeat the disinformation that an unacceptable
position for full sanctions relief by the DPRK had blocked
negotiations, and that nonetheless the U.S. would remain engaged
The U.S. refusal to reciprocate on the principle
action-for-action inherent to negotiations regarding the nuclear
issue on the Korean Peninsula is what undermined the 1994 Agreed
Framework and the 2005 Six-Party Talks.
DPRK's Clarification and Assessment of
On the final day of the Hanoi Summit, DPRK
Ri Yong Ho held a press conference to clarify his country's
position and gave an assessment of how the proceedings went.
Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho
"We aren't asking for all the sanctions to be
only some of them. We're asking for relief from five of the UN
Security Council's 11 sanctions resolutions, the ones adopted
between 2016 and 2017, and in particular the aspects of those
sanctions that interfere with the civilian economy and the
people's livelihood," Ri said, as quoted by the south Korean
newspaper the Hankyoreh. "We made a realistic proposal
during this summit according to the principles of a step-by-step
solution and confidence building that were jointly elaborated
during our first summit in Singapore in June 2018," he added.
"Our proposal was that, if the U.S. lifts some of
sanctions, or in other words those aspects of the sanctions that
impede the civilian economy and the people's livelihood, we will
completely and permanently dismantle the production facilities of
all nuclear materials, including plutonium and uranium, in the
Yongbyon complex, through a joint project by technicians from our
two countries, in the presence of U.S. experts," Ri said. "Given
the current level of trust between our two countries, that's the
biggest step toward denuclearization that we can take at the
He went on to explain that, "What's even more
it comes to us taking steps toward denuclearization is the issue
of a security guarantee. But since we thought that the U.S.
wasn't comfortable yet with taking military measures, we
suggested partial relief from sanctions as a corresponding
"During this summit, we also expressed our
make a written pledge to permanently halt nuclear tests and
long-range missile test launches in order to assuage the U.S.
concerns," he noted.
Regarding how future talks might proceed, Ri
move through the phase of confidence-building, we'll be able to
make faster progress in the denuclearization process. But during
the talks, the Americans never stopped insisting that we should
do something in addition to shutting down the Yongbyon nuclear
facilities, and as a consequence, it became clear that the U.S.
wasn't prepared to accept our proposal. It's difficult to say at
this moment whether a better agreement than the one we proposed
can be reached at the current stage. Even this opportunity might
not come again. This principled position of ours won't change in
the slightest degree, and even if the Americans propose
negotiations again, there won't be any changes in our plan,"
Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui, taking
reporters after Minister Ri's remarks, went on to remark that
Chairman Kim was not satisfied that conditions to sign an
agreement had been met. Choi went on to say, as quoted by the Hankyoreh,
even provide partial relief from sanctions
resolutions on the civilian economy, I got the impression that he
may have lost some of his excitement about making a deal with the
Americans in the future."
She added, "In my observation of the summit, I
feeling that Chairman Kim found it a little hard to understand
the way the Americans make their calculations." She explained
that the DPRK's offer was to "irreversibly and permanently shut
down the Yongbyon nuclear complex in its entirety with all its
nuclear facilities, including all the plutonium facilities and
all the uranium facilities, in the presence of U.S. experts."
Choe noted that this was an unprecedented offer and expressed
concern that the U.S. had missed an important opportunity by not
1. See "Deepening of
Inter-Korean Relations," TML Daily, February 25, 2019.
2. The Security Council
sanctions, among other things, ban
the sale of dual-use technologies, vehicles, machinery and metals
to the DPRK; freeze the financial assets of individuals in the
DPRK accused of being involved in that country's nuclear program;
ban the export of electrical equipment, coal, minerals, seafood
and other foods from the DPRK, as well as agricultural products,
wood, textiles and stones. The sanctions also ban the sale of
natural gas to the DPRK and restrict its fishing rights. The
sanctions have caused the DPRK decades of hardship, deprived it
of trillions of dollars in lost trade revenue, and imposed
collective punishment on its peace-loving people.
This article was published in
Volume 49 Number 9 - March 16, 2019
Second DPRK-U.S. Summit: U.S. Undermines Principle of Action-for-Action - Nick Lin