High risks and uncertainties remain with regards to the Trump – Kim Summit, which is tentatively scheduled to take place on June 12 in Singapore. No one really knows precisely what will happen next after several episodes of testing each other’s sincerity and positions. There are three scenarios here:
First scenario: A yes summit
The chance of having the summit remains high due to two reasons. First, both sides have an interest in exploring common grounds, clarifying each other’s strategic intentions, and working towards common interests. Second, international pressure and expectations are high. It is hoped that both sides can strike a meaningful deal. A stable and peaceful Korean peninsula is vital to regional peace and stability.
It is likely that a general package deal will be reached, which integrates the interests and concerns from both sides and it will be a breakthrough to pave the way for further negotiations with the agreement on concrete measures and actions.
North Korea’s interests are regime survival and security, the lifting of economic sanctions, and international support in economic reforms and opening up. The American interest is to seek verifiable, irreversible and transparent denuclearisation of North Korea.
Second scenario: A no summit
The summit will not take place if both parties cannot have an acceptable level of sincerity and trust. Political and strategic communications are critical to make things happen. So far, both sides still have different views and vested interests. North Korea wants to see a “phased and synchronous” approach, while the US is interested in denuclearisation first. If there is no summit then the situation on the Korean peninsula will deteriorate and tensions will re-emerge. To prevent this, both sides would need to adjust their position and interests, clarify their intentions, and promote mutual understanding.
Third scenario: A failed summit
There is a risk that the summit might take place but fail to produce expected outcomes. The main reason that would lead to the failure of the summit is if the US insists on advancing its denuclearisation agenda without showing concrete measures to lift sanctions on North Korea and guaranteeing regime stability and the security of Kim Jong Un.
US President Donald Trump said that his meeting with Mr Kim “may not work out”. The failure of the summit will have higher risks than the “no summit” scenario. It will illustrate that diplomatic channels do not work anymore with the looming specter of military confrontation haunting both sides.
Cambodia, in all intents and purposes, wishes to see a fruitful and successful meeting between the US and North Korea as it will significantly reduce mistrust and possibly build a common ground and framework for a comprehensive solution to the North Korea issue. Ideally, a package deal – integrating the interests and concerns of both sides – could be reached.
Both sides need to demonstrate their sincerity and respect for each other’s interests and concerns. Appropriate and mature political and strategic communication is critical at this stage in order to build enough trust capital for dialogue, bearing in mind that misperception and miscommunication are the causes of tensions and conflicts.