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Russian expert believes Trump’s opponents may oppose possible deal between North Korea, US

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is ready to meet with US President Donald Trump by May, according to a South Korean envoy

MOSCOW, March 12. /TASS/. Opponents of US President Donald Trump are likely to oppose any deal that the White House may strike with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, Assistant Professor at Russia’s Far-Eastern Federal University’s School for Regional and Global Research Artyom Lukin told TASS on Monday.

"News coming from Pyongyang, Seoul and Washington provide for a certain amount of optimism but it is too early to say that the Korean nuclear crisis, which is the most dangerous global issue since the end of the Cold War, has been resolved," said Lukin, who is also a Valdai International Discussion Club expert.

Conditions and concessions

Lukin pointed out that Kim Jong-un wanted to receive security guarantees for North Korea in return for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula but it was unclear what those guarantees could be. "Pyongyang may demand that the United States put an end to its military presence in South Korea, terminate its alliance with Seoul and even withdraw its military bases from Japan. It is hard to believe that Seoul and Tokyo, let alone Washington, will accept such demands," the expert said. "Pyongyang may also demand that theUnited States abandon certain weapons or nuclear weapons in general, talking about bilateral disarmament rather than unilateral," he added.

According to Lukin, "Pyongyang’s promise to refrain from missile launches and nuclear tests during talks is the most specific statement made so far." "In fact, North Korea has already been refraining from tests for three months as the last missile launch took place in November 2017," the Russian expert noted.

However, in Lukin’s words, it is unclear "how long Pyongyang will continue to demonstrate such a peaceful attitude without winning any concessions from the United States." "Washington seems to be ready to hold talks with North Korea but at the same time, the Americans have been emphasizing their readiness to maintain sanctions." In Lukin’s view, the US does not plan to award Pyongyang only for suspending tests and expressing willingness to hold talks. "A thing to note is that on the same day when South Korean diplomats announced Pyongyang’s peace initiatives, the US Department of State unveiled new sanctions against North Korea, accusing the country of using chemical weapons to kill Kim Jong-nam, the elder half-brother of Kim Jong-un, at Kuala Lumpur airport in February 2017," the expert pointed out.

Possible scenarios

According to Lukin, the negotiation process between the United States and North Korea "will to a large extent depend on how Washington views Kim Jong-un - as a strong player or a weak one." "If Washington senses weakness, it will try to make North Korea give as many concessions as possible and maybe even surrender. But Pyongyang understands it perfectly well," Lukin said, adding that "the key question in this regard is whether Pyongyang’s willingness to hold talks points to its strength or weakness?"

"On the one hand, Kim Jong-un is anxious to demonstrate confidence and present himself as the one in charge of the situation. He currently has the strategic and diplomatic initiative," the Russian expert noted. "On the other hand, tough sanctions imposed on North Korea last year, which actually amount to an economic blockade, have surely been influencing the country, though it is used to international isolation," Lukin added.

However, in his opinion, North Korea can hardly be expected "to give up all of its nuclear arsenal in return for any kind of guarantees," at least, "it is unlikely to happen in the near future." "According to a more realistic scenario, Pyongyang may agree to freeze and dismantle some components of its missile and nuclear programs. A compromised deal could stipulate that North Korea abandons plans to hold nuclear tests, produce weapons-grade plutonium and uranium and develop intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching US mainland in return for the removal of sanctions and the reduction of the scope of Washington’s military preparations on the Korean Peninsula," Lukin said. He stressed that such a deal could become "the first big step towards the resolution of the Korean nuclear crisis."

At the same time, the expert said that "even if Trump makes ‘a grand bargain’ with Kim, what are the chances of him being able to implement it?" "Clearly, US military and political circles, which have a tendency to demonize North Korea, as well as some forces in the American elite that don’t care about North Korea but hate Trump and are ready to torpedo any of his initiatives, will oppose the bargain," Lukin said.

North Korea issue’s developments

On March 5-6, a South Korean delegation particularly comprising National Security Office Director and Special Presidential Envoy Chung Eui-yong and National Intelligence Service chief Suh Hoon visited Pyongyang, seeking to pave the way for rapprochement between the two Korean states and facilitate dialogue between North Korea and the United States. The delegation held four-hour talks with Kin Jong-un, after which it was announced that the leaders of the two Korean states would meet in late April. In addition, Pyongyang expressed readiness to hold consultations on ways to improve relations with Washington and suspend nuclear and missile tests for the duration of talks.

According to Chung Eui-yong, Kim Jong-un is ready to meet with US President Donald Trump by May. White House Spokesperson Sarah Sanders said that Trump "will accept the invitation to meet with Kim Jong-un at a place and time to be determined." However, later she stressed that "we're not going to have this meeting take place until we see concrete actions that match the words and the rhetoric of North Korea."