American President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un held a historic summit in Singapore in 2018, following months of explosive rhetoric and heightened tensions, but the initial euphoria and progress hit a snag after the second summit that took place in Vietnam proved to be a stalemate.
Dylan Loh, Graduate Research Fellow in the department of politics and international studies at the University of Cambridge, believes that there are still a lot of twists and turns ahead and nothing is certain so far in the US-North Korean relations.
Sputnik: How do you see the North Korea- US negotiations developing in the coming months?
Dylan Loh: One thing that is certain is that there will be more uncertainty ahead. What this recent episode tells us is that we should not read too much into symbolic acts, such as the Trump going over to North Korea, the first US President to do so.
A lot of analysts and people in the media saw this as the first step to restarting nuclear talks as well, but I think the statement released in the UN by the North Korean delegation tempered that a little, and really demonstrates the reality of these negotiations, which will be prolonged, difficult, and there will be more twists and turns ahead, that is the only thing we can say with a firm amount of certainty.
Sputnik: Do you see Trump and the likes of hawkish national security advisor John Bolton clashing over foreign policy decisions in the future?
Dylan Loh: It seems that the Hawks in his administration have got the upper hand, but I think there are moderate enough voices and sane enough heads in his administration, that would prevent the North Korean issue from blowing up.
I think there is enough political will from Trump himself, because of his need to get his domestic voices placated, to push through a deal, or at least keep things contained, and not degenerate into something much worse than it already is. To be honest: maintain the status quo as it is right now, and not preventing any further nuclear tests, not having exercises that North Korea deems as preparations for invasion on the doorstep of the Koreas, I think status quo is good enough at the moment.
Sputnik: Would complete denuclearisation of North Korea even be feasible, given the US military presence in South Korea?
Dylan Loh: I think there is a lack of mutual trust from both sides; the North Koreans do not trust Trump and the US administration enough that they will ease sanctions, while I think the US and a lot of the international community are unsettled by the promises that North Korea was purported to make.
By many accounts they have already reached the circumstance of being able to have nuclear capabilities, so they do not need that much more to actually possess or be able to develop nuclear weapons, so it seems that there’s no real strategic reason why North Korea would give up on that.
The only thing that I believe that could in some ways compel them to not proceed further with their tests, is that economically I think that North Korea is not doing very well, and sanctions have strangled the economy, and this has implications for Kim Jong Un’s domestic legitimacy, that could be one big factor for us to watch out for.
The views and opinions expressed by Dylan Loh are those of the expert and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.