[US-NK summit] Long road ahead for normalization of US-NK diplomatic ties

By Jung Min-kyung
  • Published : Jun 12, 2018 - 21:32
  • Updated : Jun 12, 2018 - 21:32

The United States and North Korea on Tuesday said they would commit to establishing new bilateral ties, feeding hopes for the normalization of US-North Korea diplomatic relations, but experts noted there is still a long road ahead.

After their face-to-face summit in Singapore, US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un announced a joint statement in which the leaders committed to establishing new bilateral relations and making joint efforts to build a “lasting and stable” peace regime on the peninsula.

Kim Yong Chol, the former military intelligence chief and one of the North Korean leader`s closest aides, met US President Donald Trump on June 1, at the White House, Washington, DC. (Yonhap)

“The United States and the DPRK commit to establish new US-DPRK relations in accordance with the desire of the peoples of the two countries for peace and prosperity,” the statement read, referring to North Korea by its official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Normalizing diplomatic ties with the US was believed to be one of the decades-old goals North Korea hoped to achieve through summit. On Monday, the North’s Korean Central News Agency mentioned the issue of establishing new US-North Korea relations “as required by the changed era” among the key agenda items expected to be discussed at the summit.

The joint statement, however, fell short of mentioning how the two intend to establish new bilateral ties, while also leaving out important keywords toward denuclearization such as “CVID” or “CVIG.” “CVID” stands for “complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization,” which Washington has been calling for, while “CVIG” is the North’s request for the “complete, verifiable and irreversible guarantee” of the security of the Kim regime.

“Normalized US-North Korea relations are expected to come after the complete denuclearization of North Korea,” said Kim Dong-yub, a North Korea expert at Seoul’s Institute for Far Eastern Studies.

In a press conference held after the summit, Trump said it will take time to build diplomatic relations with North Korea, stressing that the layers of sanctions against Pyongyang will not be lifted until denuclearization. He also said it will take time to realize denuclearization, adding the process will start “very quickly.”

Asked about an exchange of ambassadors, Trump said it was “a little bit early for that,” adding, “We have to get things moving.”

“(After denuclearization) both sides would then have to take the steps of establishing liaison offices in (Washington and Pyongyang) or exchanging trade representatives,” Kim, the Seoul-based expert, added.

In the case of Libya, which agreed to eliminate its nuclear weapons program in 2003, the re-establishment of the country’s diplomatic presence in Washington began with the opening of an interest section on July 8, 2004, which was subsequently upgraded to a liaison office in December 2004 and to a full embassy on May 31, 2006.

A month later, on June 30, 2006, the US removed Libya from its “state sponsor of terrorism” list.

The US also similarly exchanged trade representatives and established liaison offices when forming ties with China and Vietnam.

“Through the summit, it seems both the US and North have reached a consensus on the need to build trust prior to making requests,” Kim Dong-yub said. He noted North Korea’s decision to return the remains of US prisoners of war and those missing in action during the 1950-53 Korean War as part of joint efforts to lay groundwork for further trust.

Signing a peace treaty and officially ending the war that has plagued the peninsula for decades will also have to come before normalizing relations, according to experts.

North Korea’s wish to normalize diplomatic ties with the US is linked to its hopes to achieve economic prosperity. Kim Jong-un announced in April that he will focus entirely on developing his country’s economy, announcing the completion of the “Byungjin” policy -- the parallel development of the economy and nuclear weapons.

In April, Moon Chung-in, a special adviser to South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in, referred to McDonald’s and Trump Tower in Pyongyang as examples of foreign investment Kim Jong-un wants to attract.

“They want to be a normal country, a normal state to be recognized by the United States. They want American investment coming to North Korea -- (and) welcome American sponsors and multilateral consortiums coming into North Korea.”