On February 27, 2019, President Trump met with Kim Jong-un of North Korea for a second summit, this time in Hanoi, Vietnam. The meeting came eight months after the first summit in June 2018 in Singapore, which failed to produce any clear path toward denuclearization. The meeting was highly publicized as many wanted to know if complete denuclearization and possibly an official end to the conflict between the two Koreas could be possible.
Trump is the first sitting U.S. president to meet with the leader of North Korea. After the first summit in Singapore, Trump tweeted that there is no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea, which is false. Before leaving Washington for the second summit, Trump expressed hope that the meeting would produce productive results. Kim also expressed interest in a deal that would make the U.S. lift some of its sanctions on North Korea which would help initiate economic projects with South Korea.
Compared to South Korea, one of the richest countries in Asia, North Korea is one of the poorest countries in the world because of its isolation from other countries. It relies primarily on China as its trading partner. “Kim is looking for enhanced international status and an end to sanctions in return for a freeze in testing,” says Christopher Hill, a former Ambassador to South Korea.
During the meeting in Vietnam, Kim had asked for some of the U.S. sanctions lifted on North Korea in exchange for the closing of a nuclear plant in Yongbyon. He saw it as a deal where the U.S. would lift some of its sanctions and the North would close some of its nuclear sites. Kim was taken by surprise when the U.S. gave the offer of a complete lift on all its sanctions for complete denuclearization. However, the U.S. argues, that is not the case. It claims that progress has been slowed down by Kim’s continued missile tests as there has not been much change done to the closing of several nuclear sites. Trump stated that Kim asked for too much while offering too little. Kim asked for a lift on a few sanctions, but the U.S. viewed his demand as a lift on all sanctions. This only puts more pressure on both countries as the meeting ended abruptly. It was relatively short and again produced no concrete results.
The meeting also came at the same time when Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal lawyer, testified before Congress. In his opening statement, he called Trump “a con-man, a racist, and a cheat.” He also revealed a personal check signed by Trump in August 2017 which served as evidence that Trump reimbursed Cohen for the hush money that was used to keep Stormy Daniels from speaking about her alleged affair with Trump. Cohen revealed that Trump directed him to lie about the hush money payment to Stormy Daniels. Many believe that Trump changed his offer at the summit because of all the negative criticism that he was receiving as a result of Cohen’s testimony.
Emory University student Justin Kim has said, “Personally, I haven’t given much thought to the meeting between Trump and Kim. While the meeting indicates possible progress towards better relations between the countries, real change will be difficult to achieve. Presidents before Trump had problems dealing with North Korea, so I remain skeptical as to whether Trump’s meeting with Kim will actually lead to tangible results.” Time will only tell whether these summit meetings will produce any real change towards progress.
Jennie Kim, Grade 11
Immaculate Heart High School