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Experts don't rule out possibility of Trump-Kim summit before U.S. election

05:08 July 03, 2020

By Lee Haye-ah

WASHINGTON, July 2 (Yonhap) -- U.S. experts said Thursday that they don't rule out the possibility of a fourth meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un before the November presidential election in the U.S.

Talk of another Trump-Kim meeting gained traction in South Korea this week after President Moon Jae-in told European Union leaders that he will work to make one happen before the U.S. election.

Trump and Kim last met in the Demilitarized Zone on the inter-Korean border in June 2019 as part of efforts to reach a deal on dismantling North Korea's nuclear weapons program in exchange for U.S. concessions.

The two sides have failed to make progress due to differences over the scope of North Korea's denuclearization and sanctions relief from the U.S.

This file photo shows Victor Cha (C), senior adviser and holder of the Korea Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and Sue Mi Terry (L), senior fellow for Korea at CSIS. (Yonhap)

"I do not rule out an October surprise," Victor Cha, a Korea expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said during a virtual seminar hosted by the think tank.

"It wouldn't surprise me if there is one last effort, and it comes out looking something like a percentage of sanctions relief for Yongbyon," he said, referring to North Korea's main nuclear complex.

Cha based his prediction on former U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton's memoir, according to which Trump suggested offering a percentage of sanctions relief sought by Kim at their February 2019 summit in Vietnam, but stopped short because of opposition from Bolton.

Sue Mi Terry, another Korea expert with CSIS, agreed that the potential for an October surprise exists "given the environment" in Seoul and Washington, with a summit not leading to a substantive deal but "some sort of a deal they can walk away with that they can spin as some sort of a win."

She added, however, that the surprise is more likely to be a provocation aimed at increasing Pyongyang's leverage ahead of Trump's second term or a new Joe Biden administration.

The U.S. government has not publicly commented on any planning for another Trump-Kim summit.

Earlier this week, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun, who also serves as Washington's top nuclear negotiator, said he believes another summit is "probably unlikely" before the election, citing COVID-19 as a reason.

hague@yna.co.kr
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