Published: Wed, March 14, 2018
Economy | By Shawn Conner

Former top U.S. negotiator says Kim is 'in the driver's seat'

Former top U.S. negotiator says Kim is 'in the driver's seat'

North Korea's leaders have sought a face-to-face meeting with a US president for decades, but have been rebuffed over human rights concerns as well as the nuclear ambitions. So why talks now?

When Mr Trump called Xi Jinping the day after his decision to meet Mr Kim, the Chinese leader no doubt appreciated being consulted and said he hoped that the dialogue with North Korea would start as soon as possible.

However, it would allow Kim and Trump to meet without travelling far from either of their respective security forces or to be seen kowtowing in an "enemy" capital.

South Korea's Hyundai Motor will pay higher raw material costs due to Trump's tariffs on steel and aluminium, a senior South Korean government official said last week.

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Trump agreed to meet Kim Jong Un by the end of May and the two Koreas will hold a summit by the end of April.

Look at it from Kim Jong-un's standpoint.

Through Monday, North Korea also maintained silence on the summit itself while its propaganda outlets stuck to routine pronouncements that its army and people would never bow to economic sanctions or military threats. It says it now has the capability to hit the continental USA with a nuclear-armed missile (though experts are not sure yet whether this is true).

The key to understanding the remarkable developments over North Korea in recent weeks is that the two Koreas have been working jointly to manage the perceived risks from the United States and China.

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No. There is no date and no location as yet. Suggestions include the truce village of Panmunjom in the demilitarized zone that divides the two Koreas or a ship in worldwide waters. Three Americans remain detained in North Korea. But that is no reason for not hoping that the talks do take place, and that a Washington-Pyongyang detente reduces tension in the entire region and persuades China to be less assertive in the South China Sea and elsewhere.

Kim also agreed that the U.S. -North Korea deal could have negative implications for Chinese geopolitical interests. North Korea's tubby little Kim, Mr Trump's derisive "Little Rocket Man", is a natural target of fun, mocked by the Western media for his physique, hairdo, strutting walk and bombastic pronouncements. In the case of North Korea, the idea of holding lower-level talks leading up to a triumphant meeting between Mr Trump and Mr Kim Jong Un is a non-starter. Speaking in Addis Ababa last week, he said, "In terms of direct talks with the United States ... we're a long way from negotiations".

"Cooperation between the leaders of South Korea and Japan is important for the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula and the resolution of the missile issue", Suh said.

Earlier, South Korea said North Korea's silence on summits with both the United States and South Korea was probably because of caution in preparing for the meetings, while U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Washington expected to hear directly from Pyongyang. And with many details to work through, there's a lot of work to be done before the meeting becomes a certainty.

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It made no mention of any summit plans, let alone any conditions or statements on whether Kim is seriously mulling abandoning his nuclear weapons.

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