Olivier Douliery | Pool | Getty Images
US President Donald Trump speaks with Kim Yong Chol, outside the Oval Office of the White House on June 1, 2018.
Immediate denuclearization has long been Washington’s stated goal on nuclear diplomacy with Pyongyang. But now that President Donald Trump has noticeably softened his tone on that front, many are wondering whether he will still pressure North Korea’s Kim Jong Un next week.
Trump confirmed the June 12 summit was back on after initially canceling the high-stakes meeting. He also indicated that any kind of deal on denuclearization would likely be discussed over multiple meetings. “We’re not going to go in and sign something on June 12 … We’re going to start a process,” he told reporters.
It was a dramatic change in course from the president, who previously insisted the reclusive regime surrender its weapons arsenal in a “complete, verifiable and irreversible” manner.
Trump’s shift to a less hard-line position “is fueling concerns that he will not press hard in Singapore to extract a clear promise from Kim to achieve ‘complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization’ in a short period of time,” analysts at political consultancy Eurasia Group said in a note.
Trump has also retreated from using the term “maximum pressure,” a policy consisting of strict sanctions, diplomatic actions and military threats that’s long been the cornerstone of his North Korea policy. “We’re getting along, so it’s not a question of maximum pressure,” he said on June 1.
The president is now recognizing the reality of the situation, according to Tom Collina, director of policy at Ploughshares Fund, a public foundation against nuclear weapons.
“Trump is still pushing for denuclearization, as he should, but he now has more realistic expectations for how long it will take,” he explained, adding that “as long as the North is not conducting nuclear and missile tests, there is no rush.”