While the much-touted ‘summit’ meeting in Hanoi between presidents Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un failed to result in any kind of a ‘deal’, the event was not without progress. So said the US State Department, a spokesperson for which told reporters at a press briefing on 5 March that while there was no agreement, ‘at the same time, we were able to exchange very detailed positions, and that has narrowed the gap on a number of issues.’
The spokesperson said that the US delegation had also ‘made clear where the United States and the world stand regarding denuclearization.’
In even less positive news, the website www.38north.org has reported that satellite imagery suggests that ‘North Korea has started restoring structures on the rocket launch pad at its Sohae Satellite Launching Station (Tongchang-ri).’ National security adviser John Bolton has made bullish comments threatening further sanctions if North Korea fails to come to heel.
Meanwhile, Project Alpha of King’s College London argues that US allies will not be overly disappointed by the outcome of the Hanoi talks, suggesting: ‘While Kim may not be prepared to trade the nuclear weapons programme for sanctions relief, many states in the West will feel that sanctions relief should not be granted in exchange for anything else. So, there may be some relief around Western capitals that no meaningful concessions were made.’
But, it adds, the result will do little to help relations on the peninsula: ‘One key question left unanswered after the summit is the impact of the “no deal” on current North-South dialogue. Absent a full lifting of sanctions, South Korean president Moon Jae-in will not be able to pursue its policy of economic engagement with the North – unless they break said sanctions.’