The Second DPRK-US Summit: Continuing to Improve Despite Limited Progress

On February 27-28, the second summit between North Korea and the US was held in Hanoi, Vietnam. At the 2018 US-North Korea summit in Singapore, a great agreement had been reached; the two nations took steps towards “realising the complete denuclearisation on the peninsula, building a lasting and stable peace mechanism on the peninsula, and establishing a new DPRK-US relationship”. Therefore, it was widely believed that the “Hanoi Declaration” would propose some more specific measures outlining the denuclearisation of North Korea and the relaxation of US sanctions against the DPRK. Regrettably, such an agreement failed to be reached on February 28. 

The core of the DPRK-US issue is North Korea’s commitment to eliminate its nuclear capabilities in exchange for the United States guaranteeing the country’s security and development interests. This is really a difficult game; in another article written for the Valdai Club website, it was stressed that “in the game of denuclearisation on the peninsula, the fewer the number of games, the greater the risk is to North Korea”. In fact, the United States has refused to relax its sanctions against the DPRK on the grounds that North Korea’s steps toward denuclearisation haven't been “big enough,” or that “not enough progress” has been made by Pyongyang. In the process, the differences between the United States and the DPRK in achieving their mutual objectives have been accurately reflected: the North Korean approach is “small to big,” while the United States hopes to sign off on “a big deal.” There is no doubt that both the DPRK and the United States want to address their concerns. But if the premise is assumed that the North Korea has already “stopped the nuclear weapons development,” the time advantage is in the hands of the United States. Currently, North Korea’s “economic development appeal” is not “subjective thinking” but “objectively necessary,” so Pyongyang’s willingness to address the problem is greater. 

Even though the negotiation process is difficult, North Korea is “impressing” China, South Korea, Russia and even more countries with its “strong denuclearization determination.” The rapid improvement of bilateral relations between North Korea and countries in the region is perfect proof. It’s hard to deny that North Korea has begun to reap more and more “economic development benefits” from the relevant countries, and this is just what North Korea was able to achieve during its second summit with the US. Kim Jong-un chose to spend two days taking the train through China en route to Hanoi, and extended his trip to Vietnam, which lasted two days after the DPRK-US summit; the follow-up economic cooperation between North Korea and China and Vietnam will have far-reaching significance.

“Denuclearisation” is difficult to achieve overnight, and the United States won’t relax its sanctions against the DPRK immediately. However, in terms of the two countries understanding each other’s interests and reducing the likelihood of strategic misjudgement, the meeting between the leaders of the United States and North Korea remains of great significance. What we need to pay more and more attention to is, is there a possibility that the DPRK-US relationship will continue to improve? My observation is that it is highly probable.


Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.