Upcoming talk between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un

Abdelrahman Mohamed, World / Business Editor

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President Trump’s main goal is to press North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to take his first irrevocable steps toward the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Their meeting in Hanoi, Vietnam will be the second summit in less than a year.

A top U.S. goal is to persuade Pyongyang to freeze its nuclear weapons and missile programs. The meeting in Hanoi is a significant step towards bringing North Korea into the international community. If the North Korean leader accepts the set of conditions imposed by the international community, which ensure that North Korea no longer imposes a threat to world peace, North Korea will be able to engage with other countries.

Trump has spoken about his administration’s progress. “Our hostages have come home, nuclear testing has stopped and there has not been a missile launch in 15 months,” he said.

However, the real progress to date has been measured not by steps North Korea has taken since the two leaders first met in June, but by actions it hasn’t taken.

The North Korean regime hasn’t conducted a nuclear test or missile launch since 2017 and it has closed its Punggye-ri nuclear test site. Additionally, it has begun to dismantle the Tongchang-ri site, where it tests engines for its liquid-fueled rockets.

Kim Jong Un promised a further move in his New Year’s address in January, saying North Korea would neither make nor proliferate nuclear weapons. Such unilateral gestures have improved the atmosphere for the summit, although they are not codified in an agreement yet and could be reversed.

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told Congress that U.S. experts are still observing activity “inconsistent with full denuclearization.” Many within the administration, including some top Trump advisers, remain skeptical of North Korea’s commitment.

“North Korea has given us little indication that they have yet made the decision to completely dismantle and destroy that capability,” Stephen Biegun, Trump’s special envoy on North Korea issues, said in a speech.

While U.S. officials have been guarded about preparations for the coming summit, a senior administration official identified three priorities. They include obtaining “a freeze on all weapons of mass destruction and missile programs,” the senior official said, agreeing on a common definition of denuclearization and making progress on a road map for future negotiations.

A verifiable commitment by North Korea would represent progress in the eyes of many expert. A North Korean decision to shut down its Yongbyon complex, which is used to produce plutonium and enrich uranium, would also represent progress.

Part of the agreement would include allowing U.S. officials to inspect the nuclear and missile test sites Pyongyang says it is dismantling to verify North Korean compliance.