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What Has Been Accomplished Since The First Trump-Kim Summit?


So while Michael Cohen is on Capitol Hill making these extraordinary allegations against President Trump, the president himself is in Vietnam, where he's meeting with North Korea's leader, Kim Jong Un. This is their second summit meeting. The first was last June, where the two made history by meeting face to face in Singapore. Shortly after that, President Trump tweeted, there is no nuclear threat from North Korea. His own secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, says that's not true. We're going to examine what has and has not transpired since the Singapore summit with journalist and Korea expert Jean Lee of the Wilson Center. She's in our studios in Washington. Thanks for coming in, Jean.

JEAN LEE: Great to be here.

MARTIN: So there was a lot of pomp, a lot of circumstance in Singapore, a lot of rhetoric about what was achieved. But what tangible agreements came out of it? I mean, how do you look at what was accomplished in Singapore?

LEE: We had a very vague and very brief statement from Singapore - four points. And so what we absolutely need to see now is an expansion on those four points and a very detailed look or path toward denuclearization. That is what we didn't have last time in Singapore. We absolutely need to have that this time for this to be a success.

MARTIN: So do you think something was achieved then? - that this summit is not just starting from ground zero, that they are building on something that happened in Singapore.

LEE: It's very promising that the two negotiating teams - the North Koreans and the Americans - have been on the ground for a number of days, working very hard to hash this out. I think those were very tough negotiations. The North Koreans are going to be extremely stingy about what they give up in return for - they're going to be pushing hard for U.S. concessions. We have to keep in mind that Kim Jong Un poured his country's meager resources into this nuclear program precisely to get him to this point, to this table with President Trump. He's not going to give it up easily. He's going to barter it away piece by piece, little by little, in exchange for as much as he can.

MARTIN: So piece by piece - I mean, last year, Kim did partially dismantle one nuclear test site and another missile launch site. Were those genuinely substantive developments, though, in the effort to dismantle the nuclear program?

LEE: I would say those were largely cosmetic. And until we can get international inspectors in there to verify that, frankly, they shouldn't count. And so what they absolutely need to do is to get more concrete measures and inspection as part of this discussion and agreement. And I do think we should expect the North Koreans to be trying to give up as little as they can.

MARTIN: Right.

LEE: This is a negotiation.

MARTIN: What are the odds that Kim Jong Un says, yes, we welcome international inspectors?

LEE: They've had international inspectors in North Korea in the past. It's been about a decade since we've had them there. He's going to be very resistant. We have to remember that the six-party talks, which broke up about a decade ago, broke up over this issue of verification. The North Koreans are very sensitive to having international inspections. And so that will be a sticking point. But it is something that they can do. The North - I would like to see the North Koreans do that.

MARTIN: Do you think it is helpful to have these high-profile meetings between these two leaders? I mean, does the tete-a-tete between the two heads of state actually help in these negotiations? Or should this be happening at a lower level?

LEE: It's an interesting calculation on the part of Donald Trump. It is true, in my own negotiations with the North Koreans, that they respond to that top level of leadership. However, what we're doing is giving Kim Jong Un this incredible, international platform. It is giving him so much legitimacy. And with all this fanfare, we tend to forget that he is the leader of one of the most repressive countries in the world. And so we have to keep all of that in mind. It is a huge propaganda bonus for Kim at home. And we have to remember that President Trump wants a distraction from his problems at home. But we - he has to make sure he doesn't give away too much too soon just in the name of this big dramatic moment 'cause every concession is going to be chipping away at the United States' presence in the region, its authority in the region and could, perhaps, put the region in a more vulnerable position if they give away too much.

MARTIN: Jean Lee, she is the director of the Korea Center at the Woodrow Wilson International Center here in D.C. Jean, thank you so much. We appreciate it.

LEE: Thanks for having me.