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South Korea and North Korea are meeting again. Here's what each side hopes to get out of it

“I think the North Koreans smell dysfunction and they see dysfunction in the president [Trump's] tweets," says one expert.

by David Gilbert
Sep 17 2018, 1:30pm

As fears grow inside the White House that Kim Jong Un is simply toying with Donald Trump over denuclearization, South Korea’s president is preparing to meet the North Korea dictator for the third time in less than five months and do what the U.S. president has failed to: convince him to give up his nuclear weapons.

Moon Jae In said Monday that he has two objectives to achieve during his three-day visit to Pyongyang, which starts Tuesday:

“The first is to remove the tension and possibility of armed conflicts caused by the military confrontation between the South and the North, and to reduce fears of war. The second is to promote U.S.-North Korea talks aimed at denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” Moon said Monday.

It is unclear how much Kim will want to talk about giving up his nuclear weapons, however, given that his government has done little to progress the situation since he signed a vague declaration in Singapore after his meeting with Trump.

North Korea is thought to have dozens of nuclear weapons, some capable of hitting the continental U.S. and in June, U.S. intelligence officials said the regime could produce between five and eight new nuclear weapons in 2018.

Instead, Kim appears to have reunification with the South on his agenda.

“We should tear down this wall of conflict to meet the Korean people’s constant ideals and demands to open a grand path for unification,” Kim Jong Un said Sunday, according to state-run newspaper Rodong Sinmun.

As part of his attempt to kickstart denuclearization talks with the U.S., Moon may encourage Kim to seek a second meeting with Trump.

“I believe the denuclearization issue can move forward at a rapid rate should the dialogue be resumed and the two leaders sit face to face with each other again,” Moon said.

Last week Trump announced that Kim had indeed asked for a second meeting in a “very warm, very positive” letter, and that the White House was already “in the process of coordinating” the meeting.

Trump’s willingness to agree to a second meeting despite no substantive moves to denuclearize, suggests to many that Kim is “playing” the U.S. president.

“I’m shocked at how superficial things have been,” Jung H. Pak, the CIA’s mission leader for North Korea until last year, told the New York Times. “I think the North Koreans smell dysfunction and they see dysfunction in the president’s tweets and his compliments and his willingness to meet again.”

Gone is the bluster and threats to launch missiles targeting the U.S. and its allies, and in their place are platitudes and warm letters perhaps designed to bolster Trump’s ego and his claims that the nuclear threat from North Korea is eliminated.

The reality is that a growing amount of publicly available evidence shows that Kim is producing nuclear material and building missiles at the same rate he was prior to the Singapore meeting.

“Are they playing us? I don’t know,” Sen. Lindsey Graham said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday. “If they’re playing Trump, we’re going to be in a world of hurt, because he’s going to have no options left. This is the last, best chance for peace right here.”