'Denuclearization talks not likely to make progress this year'     DATE: 2024-07-22 07:33:02

North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un and U.S. President Donald Trump hold a meeting for the second North Korea-U.S. summit at the Sofitel Legend Metropole hotel in Hanoi,<strong></strong> in this February 28, 2019, photo. A year has passed since the end of the summit, but the denuclearization talks between the countries are showing few sign of progress. AFP-Yonhap
North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un and U.S. President Donald Trump hold a meeting for the second North Korea-U.S. summit at the Sofitel Legend Metropole hotel in Hanoi, in this February 28, 2019, photo. A year has passed since the end of the summit, but the denuclearization talks between the countries are showing few sign of progress. AFP-Yonhap

By Jung Da-min

A year has passed since U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un met in Hanoi in late February 2019. Expectations had been high on the progress of denuclearization talks before their second summit, but the breakdown in negotiations created a deadlock that has lasted one year.

North Korea experts say that such a stalemate is likely to continue this year as well, as the United States is gearing up for the presidential election scheduled in November. They state that there is little chance of another summit when Trump is focusing on the presidential race.

Koh Yu-hwan, a professor of North Korean Studies at Dongguk University, said both North Korea and the U.S. know that the denuclearization negotiations will be protracted. He said the U.S. government is not in a position where it could present a new calculation North Korea is asking for unless Ppyongyang changes its stance, which is far from Kim's New Year announcement that emphasized self-reliance.

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"North Korea has announced an all-out fight against U.S. sanctions by pursuing self-reliance saying it would be a protracted war," Koh said. "For the U.S. side, if North Korea does not aggravate the situation, Trump is likely to present the moratorium on nuclear and missile tests and the status quo as his achievement in North Korea policy … Washington knows Pyongyang is not going to surrender when the election is coming up."

Cho Seong-ryoul, a senior adviser at the Institute for National Security Strategy, said recent personnel changes among officials of the U.S. Department of State who had been dealing with North Korea affairs showed that the Trump administration is not paying much attention to the North.

"There is a well-known proposition in the U.S. that diplomatic issues do not have significant effects in the presidential election," Cho said. "But the situation can be different for North Korea as they continue to suffer from the sanctions and they could stage new strategic weapons to use them as leverage for the denuclearization talks."

Cho said the timing of North Korea's possible staging of new weapons tests would be after South Korea's April 15 general election as it wants to watch the political situation in the South and see if Seoul and Washington conduct springtime joint drills and the scale of them.

Regarding the exercises, the militaries of South Korea and United States announced Wednesday that the combined command post training for the ROK-U.S. Combined Forces Command would be postponed until further notice amid the spreading COVID-19 epidemic.

"Since Trump has announced that there will be no new high-level nuclear negotiations with North Korea until after the U.S. presidential election which serves to prevent North Korea from interfering with U.S. elections. This delay also has a positive counter effect by not angering North Korea over combined military exercises, which the North believes is a direct threat," said Roland Wilson, co-director of the Peace and Conflict Studies Center Asia and program coordinator and assistant professor at the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution on George Mason University's Korea Campus.