Analysts have long warned that Mr. Kim could try to give up just enough of his nuclear weapons program to create the illusion of progress, allowing Mr. Trump to claim victory while leaving unchanged the North’s long-term goal of being recognized as a de facto nuclear weapons state.
“This is like the train racing ahead without even knowing where its final destination is,” said Cheon Seong-whun, an analyst at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies in Seoul. “If they produce another half-cooked agreement in the second summit and fail to specify what their final goal is, it would only help make North Korea’s nuclear arsenal a fait accompli.”
When Mr. Kim met with Mr. Moon in Pyongyang in September, Mr. Kim said the North was willing to take significant actions toward denuclearization — including the permanent dismantlement of its facilities in Yongbyon, a key site for producing nuclear bomb fuel — if Washington took “corresponding” steps.
Mr. Biegun said he would discuss those measures while in Pyongyang. He also indicated that the Trump administration was softening its position to make a deal possible.
He said the United States was ready to take actions “simultaneously and in parallel” with the North as denuclearization proceeds. In the past, Washington insisted that the North take significant steps of its own, starting with the full disclosure of all of its nuclear assets, before expecting any rewards.
But Mr. Biegun said last week that a comprehensive disclosure of such assets could come “at some point.” He even indicated that Washington might ease sanctions against the North before the North denuclearizes completely.
”We didn’t say, ‘We won’t do anything until you do everything,’” Mr. Biegun said.
Leif-Eric Easley, an associate professor of international studies at Ewha Womans University in Seoul, said one stated goal of Mr. Beigun’s trip — a “road map of negotiations and declarations going forward” — was particularly crucial.
“Without a negotiated road map, the denuclearization process lacks transparency, accountability and a decent chance of success,” Mr. Easley said.