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Tuesday, January 29, 2019, 11:20
Peninsula issue calls for sincere actions
By Liu Jianna
Tuesday, January 29, 2019, 11:20 By Liu Jianna

Editor's note: US President Donald Trump is scheduled to hold a second summit with Democratic People's Republic of Korea leader Kim Jong-un in late February. The two leaders held their path-breaking summit in Singapore in June last year, though negotiations on the Korean Peninsula's denuclearization seem to have floundered after that. What can we expect from the second summit? And how can the two sides break the current stalemate? Two experts share their views on the issue with China Daily's Liu Jianna. Excerpts follow:

Specific and executable consensus needed

Unlike the vague agreements reached at the Singapore summit, the two sides need to reach a more specific and executable consensus on the Korean Peninsula denuclearization process at the second meeting. If the meeting doesn't go smoothly, the situation on the peninsula may take a sudden turn, reversing the mitigating process that has held promise for the past months thanks to the historic meeting between the two leaders.

Many believe that whether the peninsula could be denuclearized depends on the outcome of the second meeting scheduled for February.

On the surface, the biggest difference between the two sides is their approach to denuclearization. The DPRK insists on lifting of sanctions first and favors a step-by-step approach without a deadline, while the United States demands verifiable and irreversible proof of denuclearization at a given time.

Trump has repeatedly said that real progress must be achieved and the main denuclearization work finished before his first term ends. Yet how many of the US demands on denuclearization the DPRK agrees remains the main problem, because the negotiations could drag on for many years without any resolution.

Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula has been the core principle of the US since the Bill Clinton administration. So it would be unreasonable to say Trump has facilitated the thaw in bilateral ties to get a firmer hand on domestic politics. As the self-proclaimed world policeman, the US cannot accept the DPRK breaking international laws as the ensuing nuclear proliferation will pose a challenge to its hegemony and practical interests.

Nor a lack of mutual trust can explain the stalemate in the peninsula denuclearization process as mutual trust is at best an illusion in international relations, because countries constantly weigh their own interests while dealing with others.

For the moment, there is no alternative but for Pyongyang to show it is sincere about the denuclearization of the peninsula. The Korean Peninsula nuclear issue would never be resolved without the active help of Pyongyang.

Zhang Liangui, a professor of international politics at the Party School of the CPC Central Committee

Second summit may not meet high expectations

Not much substantial progress is expected from the second Kim-Trump meeting, as Washington and Pyongyang remain fundamentally divided in their approach. The US wants the DPRK to get rid of its nuclear stockpiles once and for all, while Pyongyang can only promise zero increase in its nuclear arms. The most possible outcome is that the DPRK allows inspection of its nuclear facility in Yongbyon without issuing a nuclear declaration and the US recognizes to the DPRK's need to implement economic reform and so allow it to conduct economic exchanges with other countries.

One side cannot simply expect the other to make all the concessions. Also, just two meetings between the top leaders cannot resolve all the historical disputes. A step-by-step approach should be adopted to achieve real results

Besides, the US would not want a completely denuclearized Korean Peninsula, because then it would have no excuse for stationing troops in the Republic of Korea anymore. Maintaining the state of neither war nor reconciliation suits its geopolitical interests best.

The possibility of the US lifting sanctions against DPRK is also remote as Trump would not get the Congress' support with a Democrats-led House of Representatives even if he wants to. The US president has actively pushed US-DPRK relations forward to leave his political legacy and seek more support in the 2020 presidential election.

On the other hand, the DPRK aims to develop its economy, for which Kim needs to strengthen his government through economic advancement and improvement of people's livelihoods. And for both purposes, the DPRK needs a more favorable and peaceful environment, which can only be possible if it has better relations with the US and the ROK.

To make the second meeting a real success, therefore, the US and the DPRK both need to act with sincerity. One side cannot simply expect the other to make all the concessions. Also, just two meetings between the top leaders cannot resolve all the historical disputes. A step-by-step approach should be adopted to achieve real results.

And the fact that Kim has visited China several times shows China is playing a vital role in the management of the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue. It could play a more significant role by helping the DPRK with its economic reform while striving to reach an effective consensus on the peninsula nuclear issue with the US.

Liu Yueqiao, a research fellow at the Center for Northeast Asian Studies, Jilin Academy of Social Sciences

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