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What Is the Point of a Second North Korean Summit?

A second photo-op summit with North Korea will reportedly take place next month:

On Friday, the White House announced a second summit between the two leaders to negotiate North Korea’s denuclearization would take place toward the end of February. Details on the precise date and location of the summit remain unclear.

Judging from the lack of progress in U.S.-North Korean negotiations since the first summit in Singapore, the second summit won’t produce anything of value for the U.S. or our allies. The only reason to hold a second summit is to maintain the illusion that the U.S. and North Korea are engaged in serious talks on North Korea’s disarmament when that goal remains as unrealistic as it always has been. Keeping that illusion going allows Trump to claim credit for something that isn’t happening, but it impedes real negotiations that could lead to substantive improvements in U.S.-North Korean relations. There is an opportunity for U.S. diplomacy with North Korea to be constructive if it builds on the real progress in inter-Korean rapprochement that has been happening over the last year, but so long as the administration remains hung up on the fantasy of “final, fully verified denuclearization” these meetings are just meetings for their own sake. Talking about disarmament that won’t occur is a waste of time for all concerned, and linking all diplomacy with North Korea to an unachievable goal just gives hard-liners in the administration an opening to advocate for more punitive measures and possibly military action.

The U.S. should be prepared to accept that North Korea is going to remain a nuclear weapons state for the foreseeable future. The administration should seize on Kim’s statements that North Korea won’t proliferate its technology and use them as the basis for further negotiations. Unfortunately, it is much more likely that the president will be satisfied to have another substance-free photo op, and diplomacy with North Korea will continue going nowhere.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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