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As U.S.- N.Korea Summit Nears, Path To Denuclearization Remains Unclear

For Trump to actually get a real concrete measurement on denuclearization would allow him to really get more buy-in to keep the process rolling in Washington

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U.S., North Korea
U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un meet at the start of their summit on the resort island of Sentosa, Singapore, June 12, 2018. The U.S. should not grant unilateral concessions and sanctions relief to North Korea. VOA

Despite the Trump administration asserting there’s been ongoing progress in talks with North Korea over its commitment to denuclearize, it is unclear what has been achieved ahead of the U.S. announced summit between President Trump and Kim Jong Un.

Bruce Klinger, Senior Research Fellow for Northeast Asia at the Heritage Foundation, says “that while some speculate that behind the scenes there had been quiet successes between the two sides, in reality, that really hasn’t been the case.”

North Korea’s denuclearization process has been stalled for months with little signs of outward progress, despite a call by South Korean President Moon Jae-in for Washington and Pyongyang to meet again. That’s something that is likely to take place before the end of February, when U.S. President Donald Trump said he’d meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un for a second summit.

“A few days ago Vice President Pence said that [the U.S. is still waiting for North Korea to commit to denuclearization. That’s been consistent with the divergence between the U.S. and North Korean position, not only since last year’s summit but for decades,” said Klinger.

North Korea, Summit, U.S.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo escorts Kim Yong Chol, North Korea’s lead negotiator in nuclear diplomacy with the United States, into talks at a hotel in Washington, Jan. 18, 2019. VOA

But, that may not be the case, says Rodger Baker, Vice President of Strategic Analysis for Stratfor.

“It seems that the North Koreans are the ones who have been driving the push for this second summit almost more so than the United States,” he said, referencing announcements in Kim Jong Un’s New Year’s speech which “laid out that North Korea saw a need for some change in behavior of the United States or else they would restart their program.”

“[North Korea] reached out to China to make sure that everything was going okay there and that China had their back, and then they reached out to the United States,” Baker assessed.

However, Harry Kazianis, director for Defense Studies at the Center for the National Interest, told VOA that at this point both sides may have realized there needs to be concrete progress towards denuclearization.

Kazianis said the “trick” now is to construct an interim deal “where both sides can come across as being a winner.”

North Korea, Summit, U.S.
FILE – U.S. President Donald Trump meets with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Sentosa Island, in Singapore, June. 12, 2018.

“That’s a very hard thing to do at any sort of negotiation,” he said.

Trump met with North Korean nuclear envoy Kim Yong Chol for nearly two hours, saying the announcement of the location of the next summit would be made shortly and that Kim was looking forward to their meeting.

“We’ve made a lot of progress that has not been reported by the media but we have made a lot of progress as far as the new denuclearization is concerned,” he said.

Neither Trump nor the White House gave details about the talks.

Getting talks to move forward

When South Korean President Moon Jae-in met North Korean leader Kim Jong Un this past September in Pyongyang, “the North expressed its willingness to continue to take additional measures, such as the permanent dismantlement of the nuclear facilities in Yongbyon, as the United States takes corresponding measures in accordance with the spirit of the June 12 US-DPRK Joint Statement,” according to the joint declaration issued at the end of the summit.

Currently, what North Korea means by “corresponding measures” remains debatable among experts.

United Nations, U.S.
Members of the United Nations Security Council gather for a meeting on North Korea, Sept. 27, 2018, at the United Nations in New York. VOA

Kazianis suggests that one possible measure the United States could offer would be to make a formal peace declaration or begin the process to issue a peace treaty to formally end the 1950-1953 Korea War.

But Baker said that a peace declaration may not be sufficient.

“The United States has already made basically peace declarations or assertions of having no intent to attack North Korea, and that wasn’t enough,” said Baker.

Furthermore, Kazianis said, “The biggest thing that the North Koreans always talk about their propaganda media statements… is how afraid they are of America’s nuclear assets.”

He suggested that if Washington were to scale the assets back, “I think the North Koreans would be really, really incentivized to do a lot.”

Both Kazianis and Baker added that Pyongyang is also looking for sanction relief.

Although Klinger said many underestimate the complexity involved with reducing or eliminating sanctions, noting the difference between sanctions imposed by the United Nations and those by the United States.

Korea
A train transporting dozens of South Korean officials runs on the rails which leads to North Korea, inside the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas in Paju, South Korea. VOA

“The U.N. sanctions are,” he said, “is sort of behavior modification, and a lot of the sanctions are trade restrictions, either import or export. In a way, those are more negotiable.”

“The U.S. sanctions are far more difficult to remove because they’re not just focused on the nuclear and missile programs. They are U.S. laws and they focus on human rights violations, criminal activities, such as money laundering, counterfeiting, as well as related to North Korea being on the state-sponsored terrorism list,” he said.

What needs to happen in February?

A criticism of previous summits between Kim and the leaders of South Korea and the United States has been the lack of concrete statements outlining how denuclearization will be achieved.

While Washington may still desire complete, verifiable denuclearization, Baker suggested that may not be “a viable and a realistic outcome anytime soon.”

“So the reality is that what the United States and North Korea and South Korea really are working towards is some way to manage North Korea and to find a way to ease a sense of imminent conflict,” he said.

USA, Trump, North Korea
A man looks at a TV screen showing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, left, and U.S. President Donald Trump shaking hands before their meeting in Singapore, in Tokyo, June 12, 2018. VOA

Klinger said a key deliverable from the upcoming second U.S. – North Korean summit should be a commitment “to flesh out a comprehensive, integrated agreement which very clearly delineates everyone’s responsibilities.”

The problem he said, is that past agreements have been “short and vague enough that everyone can claim their own interpretation, and it doesn’t clearly identify what everyone has to do… and they all had very weak verification.”

Kazianis remains optimistic that the upcoming summit will make progress on the denuclearization front since both sides have a lot to offer in terms of concessions.

Also Read: North Korea Working For Second Summit With US to Achieve Results, Says Kim Jong-un

“For Trump to actually get a real concrete measurement on denuclearization would allow him to really get more buy-in to keep the process rolling in Washington and keep the people that are completely against this process on the left and the right, maybe to buy in a little bit more,” he said.

Neither Washington nor Pyongyang has yet to officially announce the date or location of the second U.S. – North Korean summit, although some speculate it may take place in Vietnam. (VOA)

 

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Trump’s Deep Misunderstanding of Trade Policy is Threatening the American Economy

President Donald Trump's aggressive and unpredictable use of tariffs is spooking American business groups

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Trump, Trade, Policy
FILE - Steel rods produced at the Gerdau Ameristeel mill in St. Paul, Minn., await shipment, May 9, 2019. The recent flareup with the U.S. over Mexico tariffs may prove to be a pivotal juncture. VOA

President Donald Trump’s aggressive and unpredictable use of tariffs is spooking American business groups, which have long formed a potent force in his Republican Party. Trade

Corporate America was blindsided last week when Trump threatened to impose crippling taxes on Mexican imports in a push to stop the flow of Central American migrants into the United States.

The two sides reached a truce Friday after Mexico agreed to do more to stop the migrants. But by Monday, Trump was again threatening the tariffs if Mexico didn’t abide by an unspecified commitment, to “be revealed in the not too distant future.”

Such whipsawing is now a hallmark of Trump’s trade policy. The president repeatedly threatens tariffs, sometimes imposes them, sometimes suspends them, sometimes threatens them again. Or drops them.

Trump, Trade, Policy
FILE – Traffic moves on the old Gerald Desmond Bridge next to its replacement bridge under construction in Long Beach, Calif., July 2, 2018. President Donald Trump’s tariffs provoke retaliatory tariffs on U.S. exports. VOA

Business groups, already uncomfortable with Trump’s attempts to stem immigration, are struggling to figure out where to stand in the fast-shifting political climate. They have happily supported Trump’s corporate tax cuts and moves to loosen environmental and other regulations. But the capriciousness of Trump’s use of tariffs has proved alarming.

“Business is losing,” said Rick Tyler, a Republican strategist and frequent Trump critic. “He calls himself ‘Mr. Tariff man.’ He’s proud of it. … It’s bad news for the party. It’s bad news for the free market.”

Also Read- U.S. Pentagon Emits More Greenhouse Gases Than Portugal, Study Finds

“It was a good wakeup call for business,” James Jones, chairman of Monarch Global Strategies and a former U.S. ambassador to Mexico, said of Trump’s abrupt move to threaten to tax Mexican goods.

Creating distance from Trump

Just last week, the sprawling network led by the billionaire industrialist Charles Koch announced the creation of several political action committees focused on policy — including one devoted to free trade — to back Republicans or Democrats who break with Trump’s trade policies. A powerful force in Republican politics, the network is already a year into a “multi-year multi-million dollar” campaign to promote the dangers of tariff and protectionist trade policies.

The Chamber of Commerce, too, is in the early phases of disentangling itself from the Republican Party after decades of loyalty. The Chamber, which spent at least $29 million largely to help Republicans in the 2016 election, announced earlier this year that it would devote more time and attention to Democrats on Capitol Hill while raising the possibility of supporting Democrats in 2020.

Trump, Trade, Policy
FILE – A field of soybeans is seen in front of a barn carrying a large Trump sign in rural Ashland, Neb., July 24, 2018. President Donald Trump’s enthusiasm for tariffs has upended decades of Republican trade policy that favored free trade. VOA

Few expect the Chamber or business-backed groups like the Koch network to suddenly embrace Democrats in a significant way. But even a subtle shift to withhold support from vulnerable Republican candidates could make a difference in 2020.

Trump’s boundless enthusiasm for tariffs has upended decades of Republican trade policy that favored free trade. It has left the party’s traditional allies in the business world struggling to maintain political relevance in the Trump era.

Also Read- Canon Doing Research and Feasibility Studies to Explore the Possibility of Manufacturing its Products in India

Uncertainty for businesses

Trump’s tariffs are taxes paid by American importers and are typically passed along to their customers. They can provoke retaliatory tariffs on U.S. exports. And they can paralyze businesses, uncertain about where they should buy supplies or situate factories.

“Knowing the rules helps us plan for the future,” said Jeff Schwager, president of Sartori, a cheese company that has had to contend with retaliatory tariffs in Mexico in an earlier dispute.

Trump seems unfazed.

Trump, Trade, Policy
FILE – Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa speaks at a town hall meeting in Greenfield, Iowa, June 2, 2017. VOA

Myron Brilliant, head of international affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, went on CNBC on Monday to decry “the weaponization of tariffs” as a threat to the U.S. economy and to relations with trading partners.

Trump responded by phoning in to the network to declare “I guess he’s not so brilliant” and defend his trade policies.

“Tariffs,” he said, “are a beautiful thing.”

Trump can afford to be confident about his grip over the party: Roughly nine in 10 rank-and-file Republicans support his performance as president, according to the latest Gallup polling. So Republicans in Congress have been reluctant to tangle with him.

Also Read- Apple to Bring Bigger Battery in its Upcoming 2019 iPhone Offerings

But last week’s flareup over the Mexico tariffs may prove to be a pivotal juncture. The spat was especially alarming to businesses because it came seemingly out of nowhere. Less than two weeks earlier, Trump had lifted tariffs on Mexican and Canadian steel and aluminum — action that seemed to signal warmer commercial ties between the United States and its neighbors.

“This really came out of left field,” said Daniel Ujczo, a trade lawyer at Dickinson Wright. “It was something we thought we had settled, and we hadn’t.”

Weighing legislation

Congress was already showing signs of wariness, especially over Trump’s decision to dust off a little-used provision of trade law to slap tariffs on trading partners. Section 232 of the Trade Expansion of 1962 lets the president impose sanctions on imports that he deems a threat to national security.

Trump has deployed that provision to tax imported steel and aluminum. And he’s threatening to impose Section 232 tariffs on auto imports, a chilling threat to American allies Japan and the European Union.

Congress is considering bipartisan legislation to weaken the president’s authority to declare national-security tariffs. In doing so, lawmakers would be reasserting Congress’ authority over trade policy, established by the Constitution but ceded over the years to the White House.

The legislation has stalled in Congress this spring. But on Tuesday, Iowa Republican Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said the bill would be ready “pretty soon.” Given “how the president feels about tariffs,” Grassley said, “he may not look favorably on this. So I want a very strong vote in my committee and then, in turn, a very strong vote on the floor of the Senate.”

Congressional reluctance to challenge Trump could be tested in coming months. Lawmakers may balk if he proceeds with plans to tax $300 billion worth of Chinese goods that he hasn’t already targeted with tariffs — a move that would jack up what consumers pay for everything from bicycles to burglar.

Likewise, taxing auto imports — an idea that has virtually no support outside the White House — would likely meet furious resistance. So would any move to abandon a trade pact with Mexico and Canada. Trump has threatened to withdraw from the 25-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement if Congress won’t ratify a revamped version he negotiated last year.

For all their disenchantment with Trump, the Cha