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Getting to yes with Kim Jong Un

14 1 0
11.06.2018

SEOUL – Has North Korea’s ruler, Kim Jong Un, made a strategic decision to trade away his nuclear program, or is he just engaged in another round of deceptive diplomacy, pretending that he will denuclearize in exchange for material benefits for his impoverished country?

This is, perhaps, the key question in the run-up to the summit between Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump in Singapore on Tuesday. Until then, no one will know the answer, perhaps not even Kim himself.

Optimists tend to believe that Kim’s declared intention to denuclearize is sincere. They highlight the fact that North Korea’s economy has changed fundamentally since he succeeded his father, Kim Jong Il, in 2011. It is now more open, with foreign trade accounting for almost half of GDP, the result of a gradual marketization process that began in the mid-1990s. But with this openness comes vulnerability, which explains Kim’s active diplomatic efforts to prevent serious economic disruption from the existing international sanctions regime.

Unlike his father, the 34-year-old Kim has been active in pursuing pro-market economic growth and may be aiming to emulate Deng Xiaoping, the architect of China’s reforms in the late 1970s. Kim’s recent sacking of three senior old-guard military officials may hint that he is ready to offer some important concessions to........

© The Japan Times