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The Hanoi Summit: A Blessing in Disguise but What Now? A View from Seoul

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Some observers in Seoul, deeply troubled by the outcome of the first Trump-Kim summit in Singapore, feared that the Hanoi Summit might produce an agreement that only partially addressed North Korea’s nuclear and missile threat and that the US would provide too much compensation to North Korea in return, especially in areas affecting ROK-US combined defense posture. They went so far as to say that “No deal is better than a bad deal.” On the morning of February 28, I also had begun writing a column under the title: “Can we salvage the Hanoi debacle?” But the second Trump-Kim summit did not turn out the way many in Seoul had feared, and the “no deal” outcome was actually welcome by them.

While not all the details have come out yet, the thrust of what happened in Hanoi is pretty clear, thanks to post-summit press conferences given by President Trump, Secretary of State Pompeo and senior US administration officials in the aftermath of the meeting. In addition, the North Koreans uncharacteristically gave several press conferences of their own. Surely, those North Korean briefings contained a fair amount of spin, but they were nonetheless helpful.

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