February 27, 2019 11:22
U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un sit down for a summit in Hanoi on Wednesday to see if they can make any progress on denuclearization of the North.
Expectations were low as the two leaders arrived in the Vietnamese capital on Tuesday. The first day will consist of a greeting session and dinner before a one-on-one summit Thursday capped off by lunch and the signing of a joint statement.
Months of preparatory talks finally hammered out the broad terms of an agreement but failed to narrow differences on the core issue.
The U.S. is proposing a peace treaty or at least declaring a formal end to the Korean War, which was only halted by an armistice in 1953, as well as the establishment of a liaison office, in return for North Korea allowing inspection of its nuclear facility and missile test sites and dismantling them.
But North Korea continues to push the U.S. to ease sanctions before the Yongbyon facility is dismantled. That means the U.S. could settle for a partial agreement.
The U.S. and North Korea have been cobbling together an agreement along the lines of the terms that were agreed during their first lackluster summit in Singapore last year. But the two sides are apparently close to an agreement on opening mutual liaison offices as a first step to full diplomatic relations.
Sources in Washington say Marc Knapper, who was acting U.S. ambassador to South Korea, is the most likely candidate to head the U.S. liaison office. The two sides may also make a nominal declaration of peace, which would have the same significance as declaring an end to the Korean War.
The U.S. has asked North Korea to present a denuclearization road map, including the reporting all fissile materials, verification and dismantlement of nuclear facilities. But North Korea insists on the easing of sanctions, the reopening of the inter-Korean Kaesong Industrial Complex and resumption of halted tours to Mt. Kumgang, which had served as valuable sources of valuta.
Diplomatic sources said the differences will probably result in a smaller deal. If no concrete denuclearization steps are agreed, Trump could well step back from demanding full denuclearization to sell the impression of some sort of achievement to his home base.
Joseph Yun, a former U.S. special representative for North Korea, said there is a strong chance that the summit ends "not with a breakthrough, but with some degree of progress." Yun added that Trump probably wants to continue meeting with Kim.
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