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A look at the Trump-Kim joint statement on denuclearization

North Korea leader Kim Jong Un and President

North Korea leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump sign documents after meeting on Tuesday to discuss denuclearization and other matters. Credit: AFP / Getty Images / Saul Loeb

WASHINGTON — Three months after President Donald Trump accepted an invitation to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, and two weeks after the president abruptly called off the meeting before reversing course, one agreement was signed by both leaders — a four-point statement currently being scrutinized and analyzed by foreign leaders, national security analysts and lawmakers alike.

Some longtime diplomatic experts have criticized the agreement as not offering enough substantive details on how Kim plans “to work towards the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” as outlined in the agreement. Allies of the president have lauded his attempt to broker an accord in person with an unruly regime that has previously broken denuclearization agreements with the United States.

“The silver lining is that dialogue will continue, and where there is diplomacy, there is hope,” said Abraham M. Denmark, director of the Asia Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, on Twitter.

What did Trump and Kim agree to in their statement?

The joint statement signed by Trump and Kim outlines four commitments. First, the United States and North Korea commit to establish new diplomatic relations “in accordance with the desire of the peoples of the two countries for peace and prosperity.” Second, both nations will “join their efforts to build a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.” Third, North Korea “commits to work towards the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” a commitment that Kim also made to South Korea in April during the inter-Korea summit. The final commitment calls for North Korea to recover and return to the United States the remains of thousands of U.S. military prisoners of war and those missing in combat.

Jung H. Pak, a former CIA analyst and a senior fellow for the Brookings Institute, a Washington-based think tank, said the vagueness of the document does little to ensure “accountability for Kim Jong Un to cease and dismantle his nuclear weapons program.”

“The Trump-Kim meeting started a diplomatic process, but it will be difficult for working-level U.S. officials to build upon North Korean denuclearization on this very shaky and loose foundation,” Pak said.

What other promises did the two leaders make?

Both Trump and the North Koreans have announced other concessions that were made between the two leaders, which were not included in their formal written agreement.

Trump, at a news conference in Singapore hours after meeting with Kim, announced the United States would suspend all military exercises with South Korea on the Korean Peninsula — a move that initially surprised longtime U.S. allies in the south.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday the cancellation of the military drills was Trump’s attempt at showing “good faith” in the ongoing negotiations. Pompeo said should the administration conclude North Korea is no longer negotiating in good faith, Trump’s “commitment to not have those joint exercises take place will no longer be in effect.”

North Korean state media reported that Trump agreed to lift crushing economic sanctions on the country as it phases out its nuclear weapons program gradually, “step-by-step.” Pompeo has since pushed back on the North’s statements, saying that the sanctions will only be lifted upon the complete denuclearization of North Korea.

What was left unsaid at the meeting?

Trump has faced criticism for not drawing attention to North Korea’s long history of human rights abuses.

More than 120,000 North Koreans were believed to be held in a network of four political prisons in 2014, according to a United Nations report. The report also cited the Kim regime’s widespread use of “enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape” and public executions to instill fear among citizens.

Asked about Kim’s record of brutality during an interview with Fox News on Tuesday, Trump replied: “Yeah, but so have a lot of other people have done some really bad things. I mean, I could go through a lot of nations where a lot of bad things were done.”

What did Trump gain from meeting with Kim?

Gary Locke, former U.S. secretary of commerce and a former ambassador to China, lauded Trump’s meeting as a good first step in reviving diplomatic talks with North Korea during a conference call organized by the Arms Control Association, a nonprofit focused on denuclearization efforts.

“It’s a good beginning for stabilizing tensions on the Korean Peninsula and the entire region,” said Locke, a Democrat who served in the Obama administration.

Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Bill Richardson, who previously negotiated the release of Americans held captive by North Korea, told reporters on the same call that he supported Trump’s effort to reopen denuclearization talks with the Kim regime.

“Unfortunately, this is typical of North Korea. They’re always wanting you to go first . . . then, when it’s their turn, they hold off and tend to never say ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ ” Richardson said of the vague agreement signed by Trump and Kim.

What did Kim gain from meeting with Trump?

Denmark, of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, said “it seems Kim got a huge propaganda win and a metric ton of legitimacy, and the U.S. gave up joint exercises, for little new and nothing in return.”

David Kang, director of the Korean Studies Institute at the University of Southern California, said the highly watched meeting helped “challenge” perceptions about North Korea’s enigmatic leader and the country’s overall woes.

“I think the biggest impact of the past few months of summitry and diplomacy is to significantly challenge the caricatures — and they were caricatures — about a ‘reclusive’ ‘erratic’ North Korea and leader. It’s a real country. With real people,” Kang wrote on Twitter.

What’s next?

Trump has said his meeting with Kim was the first in a series of talks that will occur between U.S. and North Korean officials to iron out details about a path to denuclearization.

Pompeo will continue to take a leading role in negotiations. Just a day after the summit, he was tasked with meeting with South Korean and Japanese officials to ease their concerns.

“If there is any hope for this process to work, then Pompeo will have to set up joint teams to nail down details immediately,” said Joe Cirincione, author of the book “Bomb Scare: The History and Future of Nuclear Weapons,” in a blog post. “They will have to produce a declaration of North Korea’s nuclear weapons, nuclear materials, missiles, manufacturing facilities, etc. They will have to get agreement for inspections from the International Atomic Energy Agency and U.S. inspectors. They will need a plan and a rough timetable for dismantlement. This is going to be a complex, lengthy process.”

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