By Prarthana Mitra
North Korea has threatened to exit negotiations with the United States in a letter addressed to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, according to media reports. With the denuclearisation talks “again at stake,” North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s government has claimed that the process could not possibly move forward until the US is “ready to meet expectations in terms of taking a step forward to sign a peace treaty” and end the Korean War.
Here’s how the US responded
According to CNN, the letter warns against a revival of nuclear and missile activities, if the talks fall apart due to lack of compromise.
US President Donald Trump reportedly called off Pompeo’s visit to North Korea scheduled on Monday, after receiving the letter. On Sunday, North Korea’s state media accused the US of “double-dealing” and “hatching a criminal plot”, a day after the US administration announced the trip, and appointed a new special envoy, Stephen Biegun.
According to Al Jazeera, the Trump administration on Tuesday said it may resume joint military exercises with South Korea next year, just days after nuclear talks were cancelled by the US president.
What went down at the historic summit in Singapore?
It is a significant milestone for President Trump, who has been claiming all credit for ending Korean war and nuclearisation, publicly acknowledged an impasse for the first time since the summit with Kim on June 12. This follows in the heels of Trump’s self-congratulatory aplomb after the Singapore agreement tweeting, “there is no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea.”
Put together against all odds, defying all expectations and surmounting official cancellations, the summit was always meant to be the prologue to a long and drawn-out negotiation process, not a quick diplomatic success.
Bringing a close to a year of negotiations, name-callings and rescindments, the historic nuclear summit between Trump and the North Korean leader took place in Singapore, to forge “new relations” between the two countries. The two leaders broached a broad commitment towards “a permanent and durable peacekeeping mechanism on the Korean Peninsula, the issue of realizing the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and other issues of mutual concern.”
With talks now in a stalemate, a presidential spokesman for Kim said on Tuesday that there is now an even “bigger need for an inter-Korea summit.”
All you need to know about the Korean War
The Korean War ended in an armistice bringing an end to a period marked by violence (1950-1953). However, the absence of a peace treaty meant that the US-led UN forces were technically still at war with North Korea.
Kim has long made it clear that for talks to process, the international tension and interference in Korean peninsula needed to end. The US has, so far, refused to budge and retract its troops until North Korea abandons its nuclear weapons programme for good. Kim too seems to hold steady ground, opposing Washington’s call for complete denuclearization prior to granting any concessions.
Kim’s agendas are less clear than his American counterpart
For a nation that preferred to maintain a calculated distance from the rest of the world and is engaged in a border conflict with its southern counterpart, Kim’s steely resolve began to soften as diplomatic dialogue was launched between the US and North Korea last year, with the help of South Korea and allies like China, Phillippines, and Singapore.
After overseeing rapid advances in North Korea’s nuclear and missile technology, Kim appears to be turning his attention to his country’s economy and has achieved considerable success in getting rid of the international sanctions that have been stifling economic development in the country.
Earlier this year, he met Chinese president Xi Jinping, who has been a key figure in brokering peace between the Korean nations and the US. Beijing is already informally loosening sanctions, while Russia has called for lifting them and invited Kim to Moscow.
Nevertheless, the volatility of the two leaders ensured that this development was replete with dramatic turning points. Trump almost called the summit off in May due to North Korea’s “tremendous anger.”
After the summit, North Korean media and diplomats have had several altercations with Mike Pompeo over mail, as US intelligence and defence officials continue to question North Korea’s motives in giving up its nuclear arsenal.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius
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