Relations between the US and North Korea have made for an interesting watch, particularly post Donald Trump becoming the US president. In 2017, when tensions mounted between the two countries, it had seemed unlikely that only a year later, the two leaders would agree to meet in person, given that till November 2017, North Korea had been engaged in testing intercontinental ballistic missiles.
Just a little more than three months later, after a meeting between South Korea’s national security adviser Chung Eui-yong and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Pyongyang, South Korea announced that Kim had expressed interest in meeting Trump. The ball was set rolling relatively quickly when a meeting between the two leaders was proposed to take place in summer that year. The historic summit was later scheduled for June 12 in Singapore. The meeting between the two hit a rocky patch in May, just weeks before they were scheduled to meet, because of joint military exercises that were due to be conducted by South Korea and the US, an issue that has been a long-standing bone of contention for Pyongyang.
What happened prior to Trump & Kim’s meeting in Singapore?
It was a busy few months in the Korean Peninsula in 2018 between March and June. There were several preparatory talks held between the governments of the US, South Korea, North Korea and China, weeks before Kim and Trump were scheduled to meet in Singapore.
In April 2018, a meeting between Kim Jong Un and South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in took place at Panmunjom, near the border between North Korea and South Korea. At the Panmunjom summit, the two leaders agreed to denuclearise the Korean Peninsula, and also discussed turning the armistice that had ended the Korean War into a peace treaty, among other issues.
These developments were a huge change in terms of the hostility with which North Korea had been approaching its diplomatic relations with the US and South Korea.
What happened in Singapore?
At the Singapore summit, a joint statement was signed by the two leaders, outlining goals such as a commitment to “join their efforts to build a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula” and the DPRK committing to working towards “complete denuclearisation”. However, researchers say the statement did not address specific issues pertaining to US-North Korea relations or even the Korean Peninsula.
After Trump’s return to the US, he said North Korea was no longer a nuclear threat but simultaneously ordered the continuation of restrictions on North Korea and its citizens. Approximately four months after the Singapore Summit ended, there were reports that the two leaders would meet for a second summit, that was eventually held in Hanoi in February 2019.
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What do relations between North Korea & US look like two years on?
The second summit in Hanoi between Kim Jong Un and Trump ended in a stalemate after the two countries were unable to reach any agreement. The summit in Hanoi ended abruptly with Trump claiming that North Korea had wanted an end to all sanctions, while Pyongyang said they had only been seeking a partial lifting of UN sanctions.
In a statement released on Friday, the anniversary of the meeting of the two leaders in Singapore in 2018, North Korea state news agency KCNA quoted North Korea’s Foreign Minister Ri Son Gwon: “Never again will we provide the US chief executive with another package to be used for achievements without receiving any returns.” Ri’s statements continued: “Nothing is more hypocritical than an empty promise,” implying that Pyongyang was dismissive of Trump’s constant attempts to project that he was on good terms with North Korea’s leader regardless of official diplomatic relations between the two countries.
North Korea has also objected to what it perceives as interference in inter-Korean affairs following the US government’s remarks on communication having been abruptly cut between Pyongyang and Seoul this past week. The US State Department had said it was disappointed at the recent developments on the Korean Peninsula, a sentiment echoed by the UN.
North Korea said the United States should “hold its tongue” and instead focus on its own domestic turmoil unless Washington wanted to “experience a hair-raiser”. The statement attributed to Kwon Jong Gun, head of North Korean foreign ministry’s North America Department, further added: “It would be good not only for the US interests, but also for the easy holding of upcoming presidential election.”
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