To hear President Donald Trump speak about progress on getting North Korea to eliminate or reduce its ballistic and nuclear weapons programs, one would think that things are going quite well. If you ask South Korea, however, the situation is still quite…tense.
First, let’s take a look at the Trump administration’s perspective:
Despite not offering much in the way of detail while speaking about the process with Pyongyang at the U.N. Security Council last week, the president focused on his personal relationship with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
“Kim Jong-un, a man I have gotten to know and like, wants peace and prosperity for North Korea,” said Trump, of a man whose country he threatened to “totally destroy” exactly one year prior.
He then upped the ante at a Sept. 29 rally in West Virginia, where he told a cheering crowd that Kim had written him “beautiful letters” and that the two of them “fell in love. No, really,” said the president.
On Tuesday, the Associated Press reported that South Korean officials told lawmakers that their neighbors have somewhere between 20 and 60 nuclear bombs.
This would be the first time Seoul has made any public comment estimating the nuclear threat posed by North Korea, and according to the AP, the revelation, made by Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon, might have been unintentional as South Korea’s National Intelligence Service has, thus far, remained mum on the announcement.
This estimate, which is similar to ones made by international civilian agencies, is based mostly on the amount of nuclear materials Pyongyang is thought to have produced.
It’s also worth noting that while there are reports that North Korea has been dismantling some of its nuclear testing facilities — and that they have not tested a missile in a months, a fact President Trump mentions repeatedly — it’s possible that Pyongyang simply has no reason to test weapons that it feels are ready.
Additionally, there have been reports that point to the North Koreans continuing their enrichment activities and, in fact, developing their nuclear sites.
How President Trump will move forward in effectively negotiating with Kim, a man he has essentially said makes him swoon — remains to be seen.
For his part, Kim seems focused on direct engagement with Seoul above all else, removing mines along his nation’s boarder, and sending South Korean President Moon Jae-in a couple of puppies:
Meet “Songgang” and “Gomi.” Pres. Moon received these two dogs as a gift from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un via Panmunjeom. They’re same breed that Kim Dae-jung received from Kim Jong Il in 2000 and omgawd they’re adorable🤗 pic.twitter.com/teJmnMuZuG
— Jihye Lee 이지혜 (@TheJihyeLee) September 30, 2018
He has not publicly responded to President Trump’s open display of affection. And, as of now, there is no date set for another summit between the two leaders.