(Photo: Global Times)
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's fourth visit to Pyongyang on October 7 has given some hope to the international community. In a statement, US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said North Korean leader Kim Jong-un had invited inspectors to visit the Punggye-ri nuclear test site to confirm it has been irreversibly dismantled.
Two days later, US President Donald Trump said his second summit meeting with Kim will be held after the US midterm elections.
North Korea's official media also sent positive vibes. The Korean Central News Agency ran a report on October 8, saying talks between North Korea and the US will continue and a plan for the second summit between the two leaders is being worked out.
The messages from both sides indicate that a deal may be reached during the second Trump-Kim summit. The world expects the deal to contain the following two provisions. First, the US may make some compromises concerning North Korea's security. Second, North Korea will continue to dismantle its nuclear facilities and allow inspections while requesting the US to gradually lift sanctions.
One possibility is that the two Koreas and the US will sign a declaration to end the Korean War by the end of this year. But Pyongyang emphasized that "the end of the war declaration is not a giveaway gift from one party to another and definitely not a bargaining chip that could replace our measures for denuclearization". Therefore, North Korea is unlikely to provide its list of nuclear materials to the US.
Another possibility is that Washington's maximum pressure on Pyongyang and Trump's goal of "complete, verifiable, irreversible dismantlement" of North Korea's nuclear arsenal will win support if the GOP wins the US midterm elections. At the forthcoming second North Korea-US summit, Trump may once again show a tough stance.
Given the tranquility on the Korean Peninsula and the progress on denuclearization from this year, Trump has reasons to believe that it is a result of his "maximum pressure". However, if the primary target of the US is not to suppress North Korea and Washington can realize that the nuclear issue cannot be solved in the short term, the new changes on the peninsula need careful reevaluation by the US.
Not long ago, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi noted that there are provisions in UN Security Council resolutions to modify sanctions if North Korea complies. He called on the council to consider invoking this provision to encourage North Korea to further advance denuclearization. This has received a positive response from Russia and South Korea.
On October 9, vice foreign ministers of China, Russia and North Korea held talks on the Korean Peninsula issue in Moscow. "It is time to start considering the adjustment of the UN Security Council's sanction regime against the DPRK. The three parties also oppose unilateral sanctions," said a statement released by Chinese foreign ministry after the talks.
South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha also said the government is reviewing the lifting of sanctions against North Korea imposed following a deadly attack on a warship in 2010. This, however, is at odds with the Trump administration's stance.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in recently visited Europe. The purpose of his trip is not to meet the Pope, but to persuade France to support lifting of sanctions on North Korea at the UN Security Council. Perhaps more countries will urge the US to follow this .
Among the stakeholders of the Korean Peninsula issue, only Japan has chosen to side with the US Obviously, the US is losing support of its maximum pressure policy. If Trump does not want to be caught in an endless game with Pyongyang, his North Korea policy needs to be dovetailed with regional dynamics.
The international community is still united in opposing North Korea's nuclear weapons program and is working together toward the denuclearization of the country. If the US believes in its strength, it should give a chance to Pyongyang to do so.