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Is All Of Asia Pleased With The Status Of U.S.-North Korea Relations?


North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un appears to be fulfilling a promise he made to President Trump during their summit in Singapore last month according to satellite photos. The North has started to dismantle key facilities at a satellite launching station. President Trump actually tweeted about North Korea yesterday. He was combating criticism that North Korea hadn't made any real moves to denuclearize since the summit. President Trump pointed out that the North hadn't carried out any nuclear or missile tests since late last year. He went on to say quote all of Asia is happy. For more I'm joined by Robert Daly. He is director of the Kissinger Institute on China and the United States at the Woodrow Wilson Center here in Washington D.C.

Robert, thanks for coming in again.


MARTIN: I want to start with the satellite images they show North Korea starting to assemble a space launch and rocket engine testing complex. How significant is this?

DALY: Well, it could be significant. This looks like the fulfillment of a promise that was made by Kim Jong un in Singapore. If the satellite data is correct this was put together by 38 North here in Washington D.C. and it may indicate that Pyongyang is sensitive to some of the pressure coming out of Washington both out of the media and from the Trump administration to move a little bit faster to show some compliance and to show sincerity perhaps.

MARTIN: North Korea, especially the regime of Kim Jong Un as regimes before him, like to put on big shows, especially when they're doing something right...

DALY: Right.

MARTIN: ...In the world's eyes. Why do we only know about this from satellite photos? Why wasn't there a lot of pomp and circumstance here?

DALY: Well, this gets to Korean domestic politics and how that would look to Kim Jong Un's constituents if he seemed to be perhaps too eager to please the Trump administration. Kim, I would say, since Singapore - may not be correct to say he has the upper hand, but he's achieved almost everything he wanted. He has pocketed what looks like a freeze-for-freeze agreement. He has secured a long-drawn-out process which is going to allow him to maximize concessions. He's enhanced his global prestige. He's brought China into the equation on his side, and he has damaged sanctions. So he's in a fairly strong position. And he is now able to do something that the American side would like to show sincerity to draw what even President Trump has called a long process out.

MARTIN: Although the president pointed out the other day that North Korea hasn't conducted any recent missile launches or tests. And now there is this move to take apart this equipment and facility in North Korea. Does President Trump deserve some credit here?

DALY: I think he may well deserve some credit. We are in a much better place than we were a year ago. There are fewer threats. It may be that Kim Jong Un is actually interested, having secured nuclear weapons, in developing his economy, which may be why he has sent an emissary to Beijing who is in Beijing now, probably trying to weaken sanctions and get economic agreements with China to build North Korea's economy. The question is whether, moving to build his economy, is he really willing to give up his nuclear weapons?

MARTIN: Well, that's a big question. But let's back up a moment. You say there is an emissary from North Korea in China at this moment. That's not usually something that we know about, is it?

DALY: Well - and the North Korean media, interestingly, announced this, which is not the usual style. Usually, we find out about these trips, if at all, after they've happened with very little information. But by making it clear that this guy, who's a deputy director of the Workers' Party of Korea, is in China, Washington knows that North Korea continues to work to bring China in on its side. And this increases China's leverage, and it increases Pyongyang's leverage.

MARTIN: So does that mean the president is right when he says all of Asia is happy?

DALY: Well, that's about 4.5 billion people. They're probably not all happy. But the governments of Northeast Asia - Beijing, Pyongyang; South Korea, certainly, Seoul - are happy with the general process to date. Japan is less happy. It's not sure that its equities are going to be included in these deals.

MARTIN: Robert Daly - he is director of the Kissinger Institute on China and the United States at the Woodrow Wilson Center - in our studios for us this morning. Thanks so much for coming in.

DALY: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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