Who does Kim Jong-un prefer in the White House?

By Andres Sanchez Braun

Seoul, Nov 2 (efe-epa).- The camaraderie on display between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and United States President Donald Trump during their interactions could make it seem that the Asian strongman might prefer the incumbent to win the current presidential elections, but some experts have weighed in the favor of Democrat Joe Biden.

Trump and Kim have held three summits and exchanged 27 written communications – dubbed “love letters” by the US president, who was addressed as “His Excellency” by his North Korean counterpart – in the last two years, with the White House often highlighting the good chemistry between the two leaders.

This, along with the fact that Trump is the only American president to have met a North Korean leader, suggests that Pyongyang could be rooting for the Republican to retain the presidency in Tuesday’s elections, possibly considering him as the best chance to achieve easing of sanctions in exchange for concessions linked to its nuclear program.

“The current regime of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (the official name of North Korea) seems to prefer the Trump administration, because if there is any potential agreement to be reached, it would only be possible under Trump,” Hoo Chiew-Ping, an associate professor at the National University of Malaysia, told EFE.

Similar views were expressed by Andrei Lankov, a professor of Korean studies at the Seoul-based Kookmin University, at a seminar organized by specialized web portal NK News.

Lankov said that the North Koreans believed they could “manage” Trump, and added that Pyongyang had sent a “soft signal” by not restarting nuclear tests or launching long-range missiles despite the failure of the 2018 Hanoi summit.

He added that although the regime had displayed new weapons at a parade recently, it had avoided using war rhetoric or even mentioning the US.

“They believe he would tacitly accept North Korea as a de-facto nuclear state and (they could) get the sanctions lifted in exchange for a freeze (on the nuclear program),” Lankov said.

Hoo agrees that if Trump wins, North Korea would try to reach a “substantial” agreement to reduce sanctions, but the “stringent demand from the US on inspection (of facilities) would not be entertained given the embarrassment of the Hanoi Summit outcome.”

Ramon Pacheco Pardo, an associate professor at King’s College, London, said that the result of the Hanoi summit – where Trump considered Pyongyang’s offer to dismantle some nuclear assets insufficient – was a major “shock” for the North Koreans.

He told EFE that this was not resolved even during the subsequent meeting at the inter-Korean border and discussions in Stockholm.

Meanwhile Biden has asserted that he would meet Kim with preconditions, despite criticizing his Republican rival for “flirting” with authoritarian leaders, Pacheco Pardo underlined.

“These conditions appear flexible in principle, therefore I am not sure that (the North Koreans) want Trump to win,” said the Spanish expert.

“I don’t think North Korea would want to denuclearize, but they are ready to make concessions, so that – in case he wins the elections – one would have to see if Biden accepts certain conditions or not,” he added.

On the other hand, many experts believe that under Kim, Pyongyang has been firm in rejecting the kind of preconditions demanded by the previous Barack Obama administration, which opted to adopt the so-called “strategic patience.”

The strategy failed in terms of preventing North Korea from boosting its weapons program.

“If Biden’s message to North Korea remains to be coercive in enforcing preconditions before talk or summit can happen, he may find himself entrapped in the ‘strategic patience’ scenario like Obama,” Hoo insisted.

“(Under a future Biden administration), there is a risk of disengaging North Korea just for the sake of denouncing Trump’s approach. The momentum of keeping North Korea engaged is important,” said the professor, referring to the relative thaw between Washington and Pyongyang since 2018 and flagging the possibility of the regime developing more weapons of mass destruction. EFE-EPA


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