There's an interesting stand-off taking place between North Korea and the U.S. After meeting face to face for the first time last summer, the two countries leaders signed an agreement to establish new relations and work towards peace. But since then, it's as if the two sides are saying to each other OK, you go first. What do they want?
For North Korea, the answer is security guarantees, promises from the U.S. that it will not attack the communist country. It also wants the U.S. to lift the sanctions, the penalties it placed on North Korea because of it's nuclear and missile programs. While North Korea has said its nuclear program is a right, the United States and the United Nations consider it illegal. And that's what the U.S. wants, for North Korea to completely give up it's nuclear program and never try to develop nuclear weapons. When U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un held their historic meeting on June 12th, they both agreed to give each other what they wanted. So the first step was taken. But it's the next one that's been the hangup.
WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: President Trump is obviously very optimistic about the diplomatic process with North Korea. He even said that there's a lot of progress being made behind the scenes that hasn't been reported in the media. But is that progress the arrangement of the second summit? Or is the progress actual compromise on this issue of the timeline of denuclearization and the lifting of sanctions? Because that has been the key sticking point ever since the summit in Singapore on June 12th.
They signed a very vaguely worded agreement that didn't have any specifics. Kim Jong-Un walked away perhaps thinking that the U.S. was ready to lift sanctions and provide economic relief right away. President Trump walked away thinking that perhaps North Koreans were ready to start getting rid of their nukes right away. Obviously, that hasn't happened. Talks have broken down because of the fact that the North Koreans say they need to build confidence with the U.S., and they don't want to give up nuclear weapons until they are completely sold that this process is going to work out.
And so the big challenge now is for the U.S. and North Korea to find a way to come closer together on this issue. North Korea wants incremental sanctions relief in exchange for slow steps toward an eventual denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. They also call for corresponding measures which may include things like a reduction of troop presence, American troops on the Korean Peninsula or getting rid of the nuclear umbrella that protects South Korea. Those are some big issues that are going to be quite difficult to overcome. We know that there are talks happening in Sweden, lower level talks.
The U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Steven Biegun and Choe Son- Hui, the Vice Foreign Minister, those are some of the issues that they will be discussing at a lower level. And then, of course the bigger picture — the summit itself. It will be happening towards the end of February. That's according to the White House and President Trump. He's not announcing the location yet. Sources are telling me that the most likely option of those that have been thrown around is Vietnam. It's a country that has strong ties with both the U.S. and North Korea.
It's a quick trip for Kim Jong-Un to go to Vietnam. And Vietnam is a country that fought a war with the United States, rose from the ashes, and transformed its economy. An economic model that North Korea could perhaps follow if they decide to open up their own economy. Something that Kim Jong-Un has said he wants to do.
So the summit is happening but the big unanswered question, will they be able to accomplish something tangible? Will they be able to walk away with an agreement that actually leads to action as opposed to what happened in Singapore where there was lots of smiles, lots of photos but nothing in terms of denuclearization. Will Ripley, CNN, Beijing.