The day is finally here. At around 9:00 p.m. Eastern time, President Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un will meet face to face to discuss the pressing matters that have divided the United States and North Korea for decades.
As I explained in The Dossier Monday, in a traditional administration, negotiations are completed behind the scenes and well before the president’s scheduled meeting. But President Trump is in a unique situation, given that his background, expertise, and personal reputation are in being the lead negotiator. It remains unclear what has been accomplished behind the scenes, but surely, much clarity on the major points of contention between the U.S. and North Korea will be delivered in the hours ahead.
There are many agenda items to hash out between Washington and Pyongyang.
The Trump administration will seek first and foremost to see if North Korea is serious about the prospect of denuclearization. While human rights concerns are important, priority one for the administration is to protect the American people from the North Korean nuclear threat. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton have repeatedly stressed that a transparent, verifiable denuclearization process is the top item on the American agenda.
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) June 11, 2018
.@SecPompeo: "The ultimate objective we seek from diplomacy with #NorthKorea has not changed. The complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean peninsula is the only outcome that the United States will accept." #SingaporeSummit pic.twitter.com/IOl8E3eU5g
— Department of State (@StateDept) June 11, 2018
A distant second objective for the American team is finding a way to change Pyongyang’s outlook, including its threatening posture towards the Western world and America’s allies in East Asia. North Korea views the United States as its primary enemy, so it will undoubtedly be difficult to change the mindset of a regime that is legitimized through hostile actions and behavior against the U.S. and its allies.
The United States has not called for regime change and does not plan on addressing the regime’s human rights abuses. Policymakers reportedly fear that doing so would destabilize the nuclear talks and could have the reverse effect of making the Kim regime even more hostile to America and its allies.
As for Pyongyang, the North Korean regime’s primary goal is to receive economic and diplomatic relief. United States sanctions, through a “maximum pressure” strategy against Pyongyang, have crippled North Korea’s ability to access global markets. The country’s economy has been in tatters for years, and Pyongyang has very few reliable trading partners. The U.S. has pledged to continue maximum pressure until North Korea commits to — and then acts upon — a verifiable denuclearization process.
On top of sanctions relief, Kim Jong Un wants his status as “supreme leader” of North Korea clearly recognized by the U.S. and the international community. Worldwide recognition of his supposed right to rule North Korea would allow Kim to secure his command over the country from internal and external threats.
North Korea also seeks the removal of 30,000 American troops from the Korean Peninsula. South Korea, however, wants U.S. troops to stay.
The White House has released the schedule for the Singapore summit:
NEW: White House releases detailed schedule ahead of historic summit before tomorrow. Summit starts at 9:15am and he will be holding a media availability at 4pm pic.twitter.com/1hvCaDhT3T
— Saagar Enjeti (@esaagar) June 11, 2018
The president will depart Singapore Tuesday and make a couple of stops on his way home. According to the Associated Press, he plans to visit U.S. military bases in Guam and Hawaii before returning to the White House Wednesday.