Regarding the “Trump-Kim Summit”, Liu Yawei pointed out that from the private meeting of the two leaders, to the subsequent bilateral discussions and signing ceremony, the atmosphere was one of overall good feeling. Although the agreements signed by Trump and Kim Jong-un lack details of a comprehensive, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization (CIVD), their ability to meet with one another is a success in and of itself. This event is significant because something like this, that has not happened in the past 25 years, has finally taken place. This is the first time the sitting President of the United States has met with the top leader of North Korea. The Korean War, which after nearly 70 years has still not come to an end, has finally seen the first step taken towards reaching a peace agreement, while North Korea has also taken its own first step towards nuclear abandonment.
Can the “Trump-Kim Meeting” then establish mutual trust between North Korea and the United States? Liu Yawei believes that in light of the release of American inmates by the North Korean government ahead of the summit, two trips to Pyongyang by Mike Pompeo, the Secretary of State, numerous confidential telephone conversations between Trump and Kim Jong-un, and their ‘handshake of the century’ in Singapore, it is clear that the United States and the DPRK are beginning to establish mutual trust.
The future development of DPRK-US relations hinges on Kim Jong-un’s actions to implement eventual CVID and his determination to introduce reform and opening up. Says Liu Yawei. If there is any sign of Kim Jong-un playing games on CVID, the relationship between the two sides will immediately be reversed, and Northeast Asia will again enter a new period of uncertainty.
On the topic of whether or not North Korea will truly abandon its nuclear weapons, Liu Yawei told China Review that if the United States promises North Korea security assurances and China, South Korea, Japan, and other countries all make the same commitment with additional economic assistance, North Korea may completely give up its nuclear weapons. Abandoning its nuclear program will not happen overnight, rather it will be a process. This process is one of establishing mutual trust. It is the process of North Korea’s integration into the world and it is also a test of whether or not the United States will backtrack from its commitment like it did with the Iranian nuclear agreement.
Liu Yawei said that it is hard to imagine the situation in Libya repeating itself. After all, one cannot make a living off nuclear weapons. The legitimacy of a government cannot always be based on internal oppression and external nuclear blackmail. Improving people’s standards of living and revitalizing economic development are the only paths to ensuring that a government or political party is not overthrown. For North Korea, abandoning its nuclear program is the first step.
“As far as the current situation is concerned, the United States has done its homework. Trump has spoken with Kim Jong-un more than once and achieved the ‘handshake of the century’, Secretary of State Pompeo has visited Pyongyang twice, Trump has maintained close contact with South Korean, Chinese and Japanese leaders, and, after the Singapore summit, Pompeo also traveled to South Korea, China and Japan, respectively, to brief them on the summit.” Liu Yawei believes that as long as Trump is not “hijacked” by some radical elements in the US, as long as Pyongyang prevents its media from attacking the US irrationally, and as long as the leaders of China, South Korea and Japan are not kept in the dark by Washington and Pyongyang, the situation in the Korean Peninsula should gradually ease and return to normalcy.
Liu Yawei pointed out that China has played and will continue to play an important and indispensable role in the peace process in the Korean Peninsula. First, Kim Jong-un met with President Xi Jinping twice, once before his meeting with his South Korean counterpart at Panmunjom and once before his meeting with President Trump in Singapore. Second, Kim Jong Un flew to Singapore on a Chinese jumbo jet. Third, China is currently the primary, even the sole, supplier of North Korea’s energy, food, and other commodities, and acts as an important bridge between North Korea and the outside world. Fourth, the preliminary agreement reached between the US and DPRK at the Singapore Summit is precisely the “double suspensions” put forward by China (i.e. DPRK freezes all nuclear and missile testing and the US and South Korea freezes their joint military drills). Fifth, bringing about the end of the Korean War and the signing of a peace agreement between the belligerents are not feasible without China. Lastly, if North Korea engages in reform and opening up, China’s investment and other potential assistance would be essential.
“As for the peace process in the Korean Peninsula, it will not be the case that ‘he who started the trouble should end it.’ Since China’s crossing of the Yalu River in October 1950, the fates of China and North Korea have been linked together. China’s active participation is necessary to the peace process and ultimate reunification,” Liu Yawei said.
Reporting: Zhang Xinyi
Source: China Review, June 18, 2018. Click here to access the interview in Chinese.