Trump's repeated vows for quick DPRK deal may be far-fetched, say experts

Xinhua News
2020-08-11 13:47

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by Matthew Rusling

WASHINGTON, Aug. 11 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Donald Trump in recent weeks has claimed more than once that if he's re-elected, he would cut a deal with Pyongyang "very quickly." But U.S. experts on Asia and the Korea Peninsula said such statements are far-fetched.

"If and when we win," Trump said at a press conference Friday in the U.S. state of New Jersey, he would make deals with both the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) and Iran.

But U.S. experts said any such a deal is highly unlikely and is mainly aimed at November's elections.

"Trump is nowhere near a deal" with the DPRK, Brookings Institution Senior Fellow Michael O'Hanlon told Xinhua.

"I think Trump was indulging in magical thinking, hoping that invocation of his toughness against Pyongyang, followed by summitry and no conflict, will convince voters he did a good job," said Douglas Paal, vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

"The facts are completely otherwise," Paal told Xinhua,

Experts said the DPRK is carefully watching the U.S. electoral process. With Trump falling behind in the polls, Pyongyang is reluctant to come to the table.

Troy Stangarone, senior director at the Washington-based non-profit Korea Economic Institute, told Xinhua: "(The DPRK) understands U.S. electoral politics well and is unlikely to want to negotiate with the Trump administration with the president trailing in the polls," noting that Trump is falling behind against rival Joe Biden.

There have been no working-level talks since the breakdown in Stockholm, and the failure of the summit in Hanoi demonstrates why working-level talks are necessary if there is to be an agreement reached with the DPRK, Stangarone said, referring to previous negotiations.

Former CIA analyst and current RAND Corporation policy analyst Soo Kim told Xinhua: "The objective here appears to be less about addressing the U.S. and regional concerns about a growing (DPRK) nuclear capability and more about securing a deal for demonstrative purposes."

Indeed, Friday was not the first time Trump vowed to cut a quick deal with Pyongyang, despite what seems a lack of interest among DPRK leadership.

In a statement published last month by the DPRK's official Korean Central News Agency, Kim Yo Jong, first vice department director of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea and the younger sister of the DPRK's top leader Kim Jong Un, said that another summit with Trump was "useless" as it would only benefit Trump politically and "we have nothing to gain."

However, she added that it "does not necessarily mean the denuclearization is not possible. But what we mean is that it is not possible at this point of time."

That followed U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's statement last month that the United States is "very hopeful" about resuming talks with the DPRK.

Trump and the DPRK's top leader have engaged in person three times since 2018. But talks have stalled since their second summit, which took place in February 2019.

Some experts believe the DPRK is waiting until the U.S. elections have concluded, as U.S. policy toward Pyongyang could change if contender Joe Biden is elected president in November.

Jenna Gibson, an expert on the Korean Peninsula at the University of Chicago, told Xinhua that the DPRK is "always ready to come back to the table, for the right deal."

"They have all the time in the world, and I'm sure they would be perfectly happy to meet with Trump again at any point if he offers up a big enough incentive," Gibson added.

A full peace treaty, for example, could be more than enough to spark serious talks again, she said.

"But even if they manage to set up high-level meetings again," Gibson said she "has serious doubts about the ability to come to a full agreement at the end of the day, considering how far apart the two sides are."
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