Vietnam is richer than North Korea

USA-North Korea summitKim Jong-us new goals

When US President Donald Trump and North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un meet on Tuesday at 9 a.m. local time on the Singapore island of Sentosa, there is little reason to fear that this historic summit will fail. Because a few days ago Trump set the bar for the very first meeting between the incumbent heads of state of the United States and North Korea significantly lower than in the months before.

"It's a get-to-know situation, it's a process, but it's the beginning of a relationship. It'll be a beginning. I never said it would happen in a meeting. I don't want the phrase" maximum pressure either " to use."

"Maximum pressure" was the US strategy to persuade North Korea to give up nuclear weapons. That's over, Trump doesn't talk about it anymore. That means: The originally intended exchange of nuclear weapons for sanctions does not come about in Singapore, it will be negotiated later.

North Korea primarily wants security guarantees

North Korea is expected to reaffirm its will to nuclear disarmament. But most of all it is about security guarantees. For almost 65 years there has only been a ceasefire between the two countries. There must be movement here, urged Joseph Yun, the US government's special envoy for North Korea until March, at a Senate hearing a few days ago.

"We have to address North Korea's security needs step by step. This is why President Trump has refrained from negotiating everything at once in Singapore. A first step could be an agreement at the end of the war. Why? Because that would remove the military option. Then a peace treaty could be discussed . And then you have to consider how to combine steps towards denuclearization with steps towards sanctions. "

North Korea has already sent the floor for the first security guarantees. After Trump accepted the invitation to meet Kim, North Korea announced a temporary ban on nuclear bombs and missiles. In addition, the nuclear test site was blown up and a missile base was destroyed. As a next concession, North Korea could offer a permanent moratorium in Singapore.

Such a test stop can be ended at any time. But these symbolic gestures made the rapprochement between North Korea and the USA credible and made the summit possible. The great advance work also reveals how much Kim wants the meeting. Thae Yong-ho, a senior North Korean diplomat who fled to South Korea two years ago, named two of the young leader's motives in an interview with North Korea News.

New balance of power between the USA and North Korea

"The US media have so far portrayed Kim as the bad guy who developed atomic bombs and was responsible for the death of the student Otto Warmbier. Kim can overcome this bad image by shaking Trump's hand with a smile. At the same time, Kim can join the North Korean Present the people as a leader who is on the same level as President Trump, and thereby raise North Korea to the level of the superpower USA. "

But how did it happen that the supposed "madman with the bomb" was already the winner before the Singapore summit? For the United States, the answer is painful: The encounter between Trump and Kim comes about primarily because the balance of power has changed to the detriment of the United States and in favor of North Korea.

For decades, Washington had the longer handle on Pyongyang. A summit should only be given as a reward for not using atomic bombs and intercontinental missiles. But North Korea's arms successes have changed the situation. For the first time, the regime appears to have the technological capabilities to attack US territory directly with nuclear-armed missiles.

This was made unmistakably clear by Choe Ryong-hae, the vice-chief of the Central Committee of the Labor Party and the informal number 2 behind ruler Kim, at the military parade in Pyongyang last April:

"If the United States carries out a reckless provocation against us, our revolutionary power will immediately counteract it with one devastating blow, and we will respond to all-out war with all-out war and to nuclear war with a nuclear strike."

TV screen with the faces of Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un at a train station in Seoul (AFP / Jung Yeon-je)

The rise of North Korea to a nuclear power with global threat potential is the real cause of the new dynamic on the Korean peninsula. Because President Trump had to find new answers to this new challenge. A "business as usual" was no longer possible. So the president first tightened the sanctions screws and brought China on board for the first time.

But North Korea reacted differently than expected - it stepped up the pace of its atomic bomb and missile tests. Now Trump took off the rhetorical kid gloves and brought his own nuclear potential into play. In August of last year he threatened North Korea with "fire and anger" and in September - before the United Nations of all places - with "total annihilation".

"The United States has great strength and patience, but if we are forced to defend ourselves or our allies, we have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea. The" rocket man "is on a suicide mission. The United States is prepared, ready to act and able. But hopefully that won't be necessary. "

In public, the US President was convinced that the tougher sanctions had finally made North Korea give in. That's why Kim would have offered the summit. But many North Korea observers believe that the leadership in Pyongyang could no longer rule out a preventive US military strike. The unpredictability of Trump, who ignored diplomatic conventions, created additional uncertainty.

It is possible that the North Korean leadership only understood the term "balance of horror" after Trump threatened war. Success in armaments increased the risk of one's own ruin. Because of this insight, North Korea gave in, said Andrej Lankov, professor at Kookmin University in Seoul and one of the most intimate experts on North Korea, the Russian TV station RT.

"They don't want to be shot at. North Korea could do some damage to the US and its allies, but at the end of the day they would suffer a lot more. They don't want a hot war, so they decided to end their armament."

In fact, North Korea only fired a single ballistic missile in September after Trump threatened total annihilation. After that, North Korea declared the development of atomic bombs and ICBMs to be complete. But this signal of relaxation was initially not properly perceived in Washington.

US President Donald Trump, North Korea's ruler Kim Jong Un (AFP / Korea Summit Press Pool)

So Kim turned to South Korea and used the chance of the Olympic Games in Pyeongchang for an inner-Korean charm offensive. The young leader found an ideal partner in President Moon Jae-in. For decades, Moon has been striving for an inner-Korean understanding and wants to overcome the division through economic aid. At the same time, Moon also fears a US military strike against North Korea, as the expert Lankov explains.

"North Korea and South Korea are in the same boat. In the long term, the North's nuclear weapons also threaten the South. But in the short term, a military escalation is much more dangerous. A war would kill a large number of North and South Koreans. Therefore, it is in South Korea's interest to to ease tensions between the US and North Korea. "

The game about the South Korean gang is one of the standard features of North Korean foreign policy, which has always followed the same script up to now. First, tensions are heightened - through aggressive rhetoric, unannounced weapon tests and military pinpricks. As soon as the regime gets enough attention, it is willing to compromise and begins negotiations to extort concessions.

But Kim Jong-un changed the old rules. This time, too, tensions rose sharply. So strong that in August the outbreak of war was in the air. But then North Korea was more conciliatory than before. When Trump canceled the summit, Kim wrote the letter Trump had requested and had it personally delivered to Washington by his intelligence chief Kim Yong-chol.

One reason for the changed tactics is the greater leeway that North Korea has gained as a nuclear power. What is crucial, however, is that Kim has a different goal than his father and grandfather. For him, economic development has priority. In his very first public speech in April 2012, Kim promised the North Koreans that he would finally keep the greatest socialist promise.

North Korea's tactic: "peace treaty brings money"

"Our party is determined that our people, the best in the world, who have survived all obstacles and suffering by believing in the party, do not have to tighten their belts again and enjoy the wealth and prosperity of socialism as much as they do want."

Only if Kim brings the party cadres and officers more prosperity will he be able to maintain power over the long term. That's what it's all about: after all, he's only 34 years old and wants to stay at the top for three or four decades.

Because of his economic plans, Kim was determined to sign a peace treaty with the USA and the other warring parties at the time, explained Victor Cha, politics professor at Georgetown University in Washington and ex-Korea advisor to President George W. Bush, on NBC.

"Do the North Koreans want a peace treaty? Absolutely. Because it turns them into a nuclear power, because it ensures that Trump no longer attacks militarily. Most important of all, a peace treaty brings money. Not because the USA gives this money, but because the USA The biggest obstacle to this is that North Korea gets money from the World Bank, the Monetary Fund and the Asian Development Bank. North Korea wants to get that money. "

In the six and a half years of his rule, Kim has already taken some cautious reform steps for the economy, even if their effects are controversial among analysts. The North Korean economy is now less centralized: farmers are allowed to cultivate more land privately and many farms now decide for themselves what to produce.

At the same time, Kim - unlike his father - tolerates the private, capitalist shadow economy. As a result, a class of rich traders has emerged that contradicts official socialism. But these donju - in German money masters - pay tributes to the state and officials in the form of taxes and bribes. Therefore, Kim tolerates these nouveau riche, says the former North Korean diplomat Thae, who fled to South Korea two years ago.

Farewell to the rocket economy

"In the past six years, North Korea has changed a lot. People's demands for economic change and a better life have increased. Generally speaking, North Koreans have become more materialistic."

Kim also justified the economic change ideologically. His father Kim Jong-il's motto was Songun - that means priority for the army. Kim called his strategy Byungjin - that means parallel development of the army and economy. Kim wants to develop this doctrine further. The nuclear and missile armament was officially completed. From now on, the focus will be on the economy.

President Trump and his advisors have also understood this. Again and again they emphasize the prosperity that North Korea could achieve through a nuclear deal. But that should be a misunderstanding. Kim does not want an economic opening along the lines of China and Vietnam. The Kim system is not suitable for this, warns the North Korean ex-diplomat Thae.

"There cannot be an economic miracle like in China and Vietnam. There people were given three freedoms. First: Free access to information. That would not be possible in North Korea, it would totally change the system. Second: Freedom of movement. The Chinese and Vietnamese are allowed unrestricted Travel abroad. Then all North Koreans would flee. Third: The freedom not to be a member of the Communist Party. This is also inconceivable in North Korea. "

Back to the Singapore summit: A formal end to the Korean War can only be the first step Trump and Kim take together. The real hurdle to lasting peace on the peninsula remains the North Korean nuclear and missile program. The US demands complete, irreversible and verifiable denuclearization. North Korea is also talking about complete denuclearization, but that is only lip service, says Russian Korea expert Lankov. He could not imagine a scenario that could lead North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons in the near future.

China has a say in disarmament

"In the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty of 1969, the United States, Russia, China and other nuclear states committed to giving up their nuclear weapons at some point. That has remained lip service and North Korea can easily do the same and say: At some distant point in the future we will also give up Nuclear weapons, but not now. "

The North Korean desire for security guarantees is understandable. But the peace treaty as a possible solution is complicated by the fact that China was also involved in the Korean War. Without the Chinese intervention, divided Korea would not exist today because the regime of Kim II-sung was already defeated. China also signed the July 1953 Armistice Agreement

Therefore, China wants to have a say in the post-war order for Korea. From Beijing's point of view, this means reducing US influence on the two Koreas. For the US this means: They have to think beyond the denuclearization of North Korea and develop a future vision for the two Koreas that China can live with. The old master of US foreign policy, Henry Kissinger, points this out.

"The problem for China is that North Korea, with its nuclear weapons, would have to give up the only major achievement it can boast. That could lead to a collapse of the regime or unrest. So the Chinese need a discussion from us, like us and present the evolution of Korea after the abolition of North Korean nuclear weapons. We have not yet discussed the consequences of our goal. "

But denuclearization also remains a Pandora's box: there have already been two agreements, both of which have failed. In 1994 the Clinton administration negotiated a freeze on development. In return, North Korea should get two civilian nuclear reactors. In 2007, North Korea agreed with the USA, China, South Korea, Japan and Russia in the six-party talks to close its nuclear facilities. For this you should get a million tons of heavy fuel oil.

Korea expert: "They will dup the US"

Both agreements failed because North Korea did not want to fully disclose and review its nuclear program. Based on this experience, the previous US special envoy for North Korea, Joseph Yun, calls for Pyongyang to put its nuclear armament on the table in Singapore.

"The first step has to be a declaration of all equipment, bombs and materials. How can we negotiate with them without knowing what they have? We have failed here in the past. This disclosure is the litmus test of whether we are in Singapore have achieved something or not. "

Regardless, ahead of the Singapore meeting, it looks like North Korea's young leader has the better hand in this game of poker so far. Even if the summit is unsuccessful, South Korea, China and Russia have already signaled that they want to reward Kim for his policy of d├ętente by easing sanctions. Korea expert Lankov is convinced that the North Koreans will prevail in the long term.

"They will dup the US, they will dup South Korea. I studied the history of North Korea. And this is the story, like Kim Jong-un, his father Kim Jong-il, and even more so his grandfather Kim Il-sung American, Russian , Chinese, South Koreans and Japanese manipulated - and won every time. "