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CWA # 20, 9 June 2018

East Asia
Trump-Kim Summit: Three Likely Outcomes

  Hely Desai

The proposals may include anything from non-testing nuclear weapons and long-range missiles to no exports of nuclear weapons or even putting forth a warmer declaratory policy

School of Liberal Studies, Pandit Deendayal Petroleum University, Gandhinagar
 
As the global community waits for the paramount summit to unfold, the pressure on Kim Jong Un hovers in full throttle.  Donald Trump, in an absolute turn around, on Friday wrapped a week of irresolute talks. As the Shangri La summit approaches, there are ample questions that remain unanswered. 
 
What does Kim Jong Un expect? What’s in it for China? Will there be an agreement? What are the possible outcomes and loopholes? A major sticking point that still lurks is the issue of denuclearization between Pyongyang and Washington. 
  
Kim Jong Un: Pressures and Expectations
North Korea is under massive restraint to abandon its nuclear weapons and missile programs from the United States as well as Japan, given its economic condition, the sanctions imposed and Chinese domination.

Kim Jong Un is firm in bolstering North Korea’s standing as a nuclear state while evading the uncertainty of economic sanctions. The proposed impediments on nuclear testing and the presence of American troops in South Korea are deliberated to draw the United States into rationalizing penalties, before North Korea dismantles its arsenal.With nuclear and long-range missiles in barter for American security and economic welfare, North Korea is jolting the diplomatic envelope like never before, as a quid pro quo.
 
The proposals may include anything from non-testing nuclear weapons and long-range missiles to no exports of nuclear weapons or even putting forth a warmer declaratory policy. This vaguely satisfies the idea of denuclearization without North Korea actually having to give up nuclear weapons. But North Korea, looks to its nuclear assets as an existential safety net, and hence has not and will not commit to complete denuclearization any time soon. 

What’s in it for China?
North Korea is apprehensive under the Chinese command since the Chinese vilify and repress them as a debauched proxy against the United States, while they count on China for oil, resources and economy. China is North Korea’s largest trade partner and perhaps has the maximum leverage on Kim Jong Un’s regime. China in this case, wants to have its cake and eat it too; meaning it draws North Korea to be trifling enough to keep the United States on its toes, but not enough to completely collapse.
 
With a steadier control over the North Korean regime and a reinforced nuclear capability, the diplomacy helps Kim Jog Un move towards his secondary priorities; stabilizing the economy and stirring North Korea’s international standing as a nuclear state. Even if North Korea is barred from rejoining international community in light of the ongoing human rights violations and shady economic conventions, turning an eye towards diplomacy is a step to avoiding the sanctions regime. Diplomacy here might be a nominal price to pay for achieving sanctions’ relief, which eventually helps heal the North Korean economy and standard of life. This would further lead to reconciliation with South Korea as an extended process of the same, with tentative economic investment and assistance.
This would give Kim Jong Un massive domestic standing and bolster his prominence at least in his domestic propaganda. President Trump wants to work an agreement with North Korea to dismantle Pyongyang and abandon its nuclear missiles.
 
But if Pyongyang can and will survive with a civilian nuclear program for deterrence, is a catch.

Three Outcomes
 
1. Symbolic Deals-No Major Outcomes
North Korea, will not be lured just by dangling the carrot of economic incentives, even though it is being targeted by international sanctions. Security being one of the major priorities, it will not completely denuclearize to maintain deterrence. In case of a no compromise vote, there may even be a symbolic agreement, as an initiation to a long run diplomatic dialogue. 
 
2. Agreements to reduce nukes (No Denuclearization)
There may be a series of agreements with eventual treaties, pertaining to arms control. Whether the deals will include chemical and biological threats, alongside nuclear threats and all of its ballistic missiles, is a question unanswered. It may also involve an elongated reduction of nuclear weapons through the years or a swift decline.These loopholes are yet to be addressed in the agreement. The answers are far from clear. Though it is certain that, dismantling Pyongyang and complete denuclearization is absolutely far-fetched.
 
3. No agreement
The North Korean regime perceives these nuclear weapons as a deterrent to their global elimination, If the negotiations do not come through, satisfying the agendas of both the state leaders, either one may back out of the summit. This may lead the talks to a standstill with no possible outcome or even a war in the long run.
 
The consequence of the summit between the two leaders is still rhetorical. But what is certain is that the sought after meeting will have the world looking towards the loopholes rather than the loquacious agreements. 

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