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Vox: North and South Korea Just Signed a Major Agreement. It may be Bad News for Trump.

Business Insider

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in are in the middle of a dramatic three-day summit that has featured warm hugs, elaborate musical performances, and throngs of Pyongyang’s residents lining the streets to catch a glimpse of the historic moment, Vox reports.

Late Tuesday night, the pageantry turned into actual business as both leaders vowed to improve their fraught relationship and announced an agreement in which Kim offered the concrete steps toward dismantling his country’s nuclear program.

The problem is their agreement is extremely vague — and may actually prove bad news for the United States.

Here’s some of what they agreed to: Kim said that he’d travel to Seoul by the end of the year — a first for any North Korean leader — and that both sides will work to reduce tensions at their heavily militarized border. Kim and Moon even agreed to jointly bid to host the Olympics in 2032.

But on the issue that matters most to the United States — the dismantling of North Korea’s nuclear program — no one can claim much progress. Kim said he’d allow international inspectors into the country to watch as he destroys a missile engine testing site and a major nuclear facility, but experts say Pyongyang doesn’t actually need those specific sites anymore, which makes that a much less significant concession than it sounds.

Kim added the caveat that he’d follow through on his concessions if the US makes unspecified  concessions of its own. That’s a pretty important caveat: The North Korean leader has basically offered to give up very little while expecting America to concede more before anything happens.

"North Korea is still expecting Washington to make the first move," Duyeon Kim, a nuclear and Koreas expert at the Center for a New American Security think tank, tells me. "The needle hasn’t moved at all."

President Donald Trump, however, claimed victory on Twitter, noting all the agreements between the two Koreas and Kim’s vow to take down some of his nuclear installations.

That underscores how Kim’s high-wire strategy to keep Trump happy — while still quietly improving North Korea’s nuclear arsenal in the background — may just pay off for the North Korean dictator.


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