Political Risk Analysis - Quick View: Kim-Trump Meeting Entails High Risks, But Potentially High Rewards - MAY 2018

The Latest: The White House has announced that US President Donald Trump has agreed to meet North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un by May. Kim's invitation was delivered by South Korean envoys on March 8 (US time) following a high-level meeting between the North and South on March 6.

Implications: This will be the first-ever summit between a serving US president and a North Korean leader, and the fact that it is scheduled at all is itself a breakthrough of sorts. We had previously noted that an eventual summit between Trump and Kim was possible, with Trump appearing to be more willing to meet Kim than previous US leaders ( see 'Imagining A Washington-Pyongyang Rapprochement', May 16, 2017). However, diplomacy has moved forward faster than we anticipated.

Going forward, the willingness of Kim and Trump to meet will lead to a further easing of inter-Korean tensions in the near future, in tandem with the thawing of ties between Pyongyang and Seoul (Kim will hold a summit with President Moon Jae-in in late April). The key to achieving a sustained reduction of tensions on the Korean Peninsula now lies in improving relations between North Korea and the US. However, the planned Trump-Kim summit is unlikely to see a decline in US pressure on North Korea before the proposed meeting in May. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders announced that the US looks "forward to the denuclearisation of North Korea. In the meantime, all sanctions and maximum pressure must remain".

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