Issuing a statement on Twitter overnight, President Trump said that a meeting with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un is in the process of being planned, but that in the meantime, US sanctions against North Korea will all remain in place until a final agreement is reached.
Administration officials are presenting this as part of a general need to maintain “maximum pressure” throughout the talks. This reflects a position within the government that the talks themselves are vindication of US sanctions and threats.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said as much during his visit to Kenya on Friday, that the talks showed the “policy we’ve put in place and executed by the State Department has succeeded.” This policy involved decades of mounting sanctions and acrimony.
While the talks are a hugely significant achievement, the administration may be making some fallacious connections in believing North Korea’s invitation to meet is a product of the last year of mounting tensions, as opposed to a few weeks of very positive diplomatic progress between North and South Korea, and South Korea trying to steer both sides to talks.
Since there is no sign North Korea was pushing for sanctions relief anyhow, this isn’t necessarily an obstacle. Rather, North Korea’s goal has always been to make a deal that avoids a US military strike. While North Korean officials have at times expressed anger at the imposition of new sanctions, they’ve never made easing sanctions a priority.
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