Since the meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) leader Kim Jong Un in June 2018, the two sides have failed to reach a consensus on multiple issues. The U.S. president is defending what some analysts call "slow progress in the denuclearization talks."
Trump and Kim met in June last year in Singapore and agreed, in principle, to work towards the "denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula."
Though the rhetoric has cooled, the path to permanent peace remains a rocky one. There are three key sticking points that have stalled the current round of negotiations. First is the process of denuclearization. The DPRK believes the U.S. must take corresponding measures to the ones it has taken. It cites as proof of its intentions. The dismantling of a nuclear testing site, and no new nuclear missile tests.
But U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stressed complete and verifiable denuclearization before economic sanctions can be eased.
Though recently, the U.S. has indicated that it may take some corresponding measures to resolve the impasse. Pyongyang also wants the U.S. to agree to an official end to the Korean War. But Washington insists it should first sign a disarmament deal. Experts say the United States is reluctant as a formal end to the war would undermine the rationale for stationing 28,000 American troops in Republic of Korea (ROK), though Trump wants ROK to pay more for the military assistance.
This leads to the third and possibly the most contentious part – the definition of denuclearization. For Pyongyang, it means reciprocal steps to get rid of nuclear weapons. These include requiring the U.S. to remove its nuclear umbrella from the peninsula. But for many in Washington, it means Kim handing over his nuclear weapons and missile systems and allowing international inspectors.
In November last year, the DPRK's official news agency published an article demanding that Washington revoke its nuclear threat to the Korean Peninsula before asking it to denuclearize.
The United States operates a network of nuclear-capable submarines and bombers off the coasts of ROK and Japan.
Last month, the Trump administration reportedly eased some of the restrictions on American citizens traveling to the DPRK, to help facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid.
So will the U.S. blink and remove other sanctions and begin the reciprocal process? A second meeting of the two top leaders in February could provide a clearer answer.