‘Progress!’ says Trump as Kim drops nuclear tests

Rocket man: A source told CNN that Kim wants to “open up a new chapter for his nation”. © Getty

Who will come out on top when Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un meet? The North Korean leader has said his country “no longer needs” nuclear tests. But experts are suspicious of his motives.

Just eight months ago, President Donald Trump was threatening North Korea with “fire and fury”. Now, he has tweeted that the country has made “big progress” and that he is looking forward to a summit with dictator Kim Jong-un.

This weekend, Kim made a major announcement on state-run TV, saying that the nuclear weapons programme was “complete”; that North Korea no longer needed to do nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile tests; that he would be closing the country’s nuclear test site.

His statement came ahead of a meeting with the South Korean President Moon Jae-in this Friday, and plans for another with Trump himself in late May or early June. Last week, it was revealed that the North and South were discussing a peace treaty after more than 60 years of war.

Several world leaders joined Trump in praising the decision. One South Korean official said it created a “positive environment” for talks this week. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he wished the countries “every success” in their talks.

However, not everyone is convinced. Japan’s defence minister said the announcement was “insufficient”.

And it is not the first time North Korea has promised to curb its nuclear programme. In 2006, Kim’s father broke an agreement that he had made in 1999 to stop testing long-range missiles. Two years later, he blew up a cooling tower of a nuclear plant to prove he was serious about peace talks — only to change his mind again.

Now, experts are suspicious of Kim’s commitment to “global nuclear disarmament”. Rather than an agreement to give up its own nuclear weapons, this is a “common trope in North Korean propaganda”, wrote The Atlantic on Saturday. It suggests that Kim “will soon call for tit-for-tat arms control with the United States”. In other words, he is positioning himself as an equal player on the world stage.

Who has the upper hand?

Peace by peace

Trump, say some. The economic sanctions placed on North Korea by the rest of the world have been hitting its people hard. Now it is offering concessions, including letting US troops stay in the region to keep the peace. All of the latest developments — going to the Olympics, meeting Trump, suspending nuclear tests — have been Kim’s idea. He wants to negotiate. The world should be cautious, but hopeful.

Others argue that Trump is being conned. Kim knows he wants to take credit for a major peace deal. His promise to stop nuclear tests can easily be broken. And a peace treaty is the perfect excuse to get the US out of the way so he can start threatening South Korea. Best of all, if Trump comes to meet him, Kim will get what he always wanted: to be taken seriously by the world’s biggest superpower.

You Decide

  1. If you were Donald Trump, would you trust Kim Jong-un’s commitment to peace?
  2. Should the US give up its nuclear weapons?

Activities

  1. Imagine that you are preparing for peace talks with North Korea, on behalf of South Korea and the US. What demands would you make of Kim Jong-un? And what would you be willing to do in return?
  2. Create a timeline of relations between North Korea, South Korea, and the US since the Korean War began in 1950.

Some People Say...

“The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.”

Sun Tzu

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
On Saturday, Kim Jong-un said that he would be suspending future nuclear tests, and tests of ICBMs. Last month he said he was willing to discuss “denuclearisation” with Trump. However, to North Koreans, this does not mean they alone give up their hard won nuclear weapons; it also means the US should retreat from the Korean peninsula, where its military is currently protecting the South from invasion.
What do we not know?
Whether Kim Jong-un will go back on his word, or the outcome of the upcoming summit. Currently, both sides seem to think they have the upper hand: Trump believes his campaign of “maximum pressure” on North Korea has forced Kim to negotiate, while Kim has managed to convince the president to meet him, which could legitimise him and his country.

Word Watch

Intercontinental ballistic missile
Also known as ICBMs. North Korea claims to have missiles that can reach up to 6,700km away, which would include parts of the US. However, this has not been confirmed independently.
Test site
Located at a village called Punggye-ri in the north of the country. There have been six nuclear tests there since 2006. There are fears that the mountain in the area could collapse after the tests.
60 years
The Korean War between North and South Korea began in 1950. An armistice was signed in 1953, but never a peace treaty, meaning the war is technically still ongoing.
Take credit
Last week, a source close to Donald Trump told the website Axios that the president thinks, “Just get me in the room with the guy [Kim Jong-un] and I’ll figure it out.” This could be why he accepted a summit with him that his predecessors have always refused.
Sanctions
Sanctions have been placed on North Korea for decades. However, last year they were tightened, and China (which accounts for around 90% of North Korea’s international trade) joined in seriously for the first time.