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What To Make Of Trump's Meeting With Kim


President Trump today met with North Korea's leader at the Korean Demilitarized Zone, where they agreed to resume stalled talks over North Korea's nuclear ambitions. This is the third time the two leaders have met. For reaction, we are joined now by Sue Mi Terry, a senior fellow for Korea at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Good morning.

SUE MI TERRY: Good morning.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So your reaction to this meeting - the president seems to rely on his own brand of personal politics to get things moving.

TERRY: Absolutely. And Kim Jong Un knows this. That's why he's been trying very hard to separate President Trump from his advisers because he thinks there is a deal to be had by just directly dealing with the president. There are a couple noteworthy things that came out of this meeting. I noticed that Trump - President Trump saying that speed is not the object here because he's looking for a comprehensive deal. And then he hinted that sanctions could be lifted during the working-level negotiations.

This is a departure from the Trump administration's previous stance that sanctions would be lifted only after denuclearization. So I think the bottom line is President Trump is looking for a deal. And potentially, now that working-level negotiations are going to resume, there is a deal to be had.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Well, I've seen reaction from other North Korea experts, like Robert Kelly, saying on Twitter, the meeting is quote, "another Trump snow-job of flim-flam. Does anyone seriously believe Kim will give up one warhead because Trump is his bud?" There's some skepticism there that actually, you know, Kim is actually going to come to the table and do something substantive.

TERRY: Well, I think he's going to come to the table. Is it going to be substantive? I don't think it's going to be substantive. We've seen - it's been a year since the Singapore declaration, since they met for the first time in Singapore. We still don't have an agreed-upon definition on what even denuclearization means. We don't have a road map. We don't have a timeline. And I don't think Kim Jong Un is going to give up any of those things and certainly not nuclear weapons.

But I do think because he wants a deal with President Trump, he may put up Yongbyon, which is a nuclear facility, plus perhaps even another facility in exchange for some sanctions relief or - and that's still - that deal still works for Kim because he's not giving up any of his nuclear weapons or missiles. He's just putting up a facility for a deal.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And what has been the reaction in South Korea? The president there, Moon Jae-in, has staked his presidency on improving relations with the North.

TERRY: Well, this is actually, you know, good news for President Moon because the economy's not doing well in South Korea, and President Moon has staked his entire legitimacy - his legacy on a deal with North Korea and moving forward with North Korea. So I think the Moon Jae-in administration is very happy with this settlement. South Koreans in general are - they want engagement with North Korea. But of course, we are still a very, very long way from the complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization that we said we're seeking.

So you know, it's already an interim step towards some sort of working-level negotiation where we shouldn't be too - it's not going to lead to denuclearization. And so I - in that regard, I agree with all other skeptics, that we're just very, very far from denuclearization.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah, I've seen some reaction in South Korea saying this looks like both men, Trump and Moon Jae-in, are playing to their domestic audiences. In South Korea, there are parliamentary elections coming up soon.

TERRY: Yes, and that's going to be interesting to see. Not only is there a parliamentary election, which is very important for the Moon administration, but as I mentioned, people are unhappy with the state of the economy. There are a lot of domestic issues that people are unhappy with. So this distracts - yeah, this is a distraction for - that President Moon needs. So the Moon administration is happy with this.

And, of course, the Trump administration and President Trump himself, I think, was looking for a deal like this. And the timing is very curious - why he would choose right now to have a meeting like this. So I think you're right. I think there's a domestic consideration for both.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Sue Mi Terry is a senior fellow for Korea at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Thank you very much.

TERRY: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.