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Trump-Kim summit unlikely before US election: experts

President Donald Trump, leader Kim Jong-un, President Moon Jae-in (from left to right) (Cheong Wa Dae)
President Donald Trump, leader Kim Jong-un, President Moon Jae-in (from left to right) (Cheong Wa Dae)

Leaders of the US and North Korea are unlikely to push for their third summit before November, experts said Thursday, as domestic priorities override foreign policy concerns in the lead-up to the US presidential election in November.

President Moon Jae-in floated the idea of a potential Donald Trump-Kim Jong-un meet at a videoconference with EU leaders Tuesday, saying they should try dialogue one more time to revive the stalled denuclearization process.

The nuclear talks are stalled over conflicting demands from both sides. Washington wants the North to disarm first, while Pyongyang demands sanctions relief first.

Moon’s remarks ran counter to what US Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun said a day earlier, when he described a potential summit as “probably unlikely.” The US point man on North Korea, however, left the door open to diplomacy, saying there was still time for bilateral engagement.

Experts were also skeptical.

“President Trump is faced with huge domestic challenges,” Joseph Yun, former US special representative for North Korea policy, told Voice of America, referring to a prolonged recession caused by the coronavirus pandemic and a growing racial divide Trump needs to address for his successful reelection bid.

There was just no space to cram the North Korea issue into the packed agenda, according to Yun.

“Why the North would want to get a situation (with) someone who might be disappearing in five months?” Robert Gallucci, a former US chief negotiator with North Korea over its nuclear program, told VOA. He placed his bet on the status quo extending until at least November, when the US decides its next president.

Shin Jong-woo, a senior analyst at the Korea Defense and Security Forum, said Moon’s remarks were an expression of what should be done, as opposed to what could be done. “His office knew better,” he said.

A presidential official said Seoul had conveyed Moon’s views to Washington, and that officials there were making efforts to open the talks.

Some analysts however did not altogether dismiss a third Trump-Kim encounter.

“I can imagine Trump saying to Pompeo, have Beigun go out and see what he can get,” Gary Samore, former White House coordinator for arms control, told VOA. 

Biegun was reportedly set to visit the South in early July, but the US State Department has yet to confirm the report.

Seoul’s Foreign Ministry was in consultation with local health authorities to grant Biegun a waiver so he would not have to undergo self-quarantine procedures upon entry, as demanded from all incoming foreign nationals at the moment here, a local report said.

Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha told reporters Thursday that the ministry was expecting a visit by a ranking official overseas, without identifying which country.

By Choi Si-young (siyoungchoi@heraldcorp.com)
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