On the eve of Trump-Kim summit 2, what next for US and North Korea?

By , February 25, 2019

This week, President Trump will meet Kim Jong-un for the second time, in Vietnam. During the eight months since the two leaders first met in Singapore, little progress has been made toward achieving the goals outlined in the vague agreement the two leaders signed. North Korea has not pursued nuclear or missile testing since then, but work at some nuclear facilities has apparently continued. Meanwhile, the United States has maintained its sanctions regime against the impoverished state and conducted military exercises with South Korea, albeit slightly more restrained than before.

Trump began promising a new summit immediately after the last one. But despite high-level talks and exchanges between North Korean and US emissaries, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, no concrete plans for full denuclearization of the Korea peninsula have been made public. Here are some recent pieces the Bulletin has published in which experts on nuclear policy and the Korean peninsula give their thoughts about what both countries can and can't achieve in this round of negotiations and what should be at the top of the agenda in Hanoi.

Illustration by Matt Field. Based in part on photo by Alias 0591 CC BY 2.0.

Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula begins with a peace declaration

The central question moving forward isn’t whether Kim is willing to give up his nuclear weapons; rather it’s whether the United States and North Korea can transform their relationship to a point where Kim and his elites begin to believe their regime can survive without nuclear weapons. More than any other measure, an end-of-war declaration between the two countries would represent the beginning of this transformation.
Trump and Kim in Singapore 2018

Goals for any arms control proposal with North Korea

At this point, the US and its allies should simply aim to quantitatively and qualitatively limit, rather than totally eliminate, North Korea’s nuclear weapons capabilities—while maintaining the long-term goal of working toward North Korean disarmament.
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Sig Hecker on North Korea in 2018

Researchers with Stanford's Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC) released a 2018 update to their historical report and "roadmap" toward North Korean denuclearization; here CISAC senior fellow and former director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory Siegfried Hecker shares what the team learned.
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What North Korea wants from the next US summit

Washington and Pyongyang don’t see eye to eye on denuclearization, nuclear energy, or the proper sequence of events. Negotiations will get even trickier this year.
Scientists briefing North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in a photo released in 2017 Credit: Korean Central News Agency.

How to tell if North Korea is serious about denuclearization

Pyongyang may offer many measures, but only a few will indicate real readiness to give up nuclear weapons.
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How to make progress with North Korea now

The United States needs to succeed in these negotiations and verifications, and so make North Korea, like South Africa, an example of denuclearization that improves a nation’s circumstances. A patient, mutual, step-by-step path—and a willingness by the United States to consider proposals coming from North Korea that are in North Korea’s interests as well as our own—is the only route to such an outcome.
Destruction of North Korea's Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site. Photo credit: Voice of America

North Korean verification: Good enough for government work?

Any verification regime for eliminating North Korean nuclear weapons is likely to involve uncertainty. But a degree of uncertainty might be an acceptable price to pay.
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North Korea’s other weapons of mass destruction

While the nuclear threat is the most dire, North Korea’s biological and chemical weapons programs must be addressed as well, argue two experts from the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation in this exclusive op-ed.

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