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Korean leaders Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong-Un hold surprise second summit  South Korean Presidential Blue House via Getty Images

Getting to Yes With Kim Jong-un

There are of course no guarantees that Donald Trump’s upcoming summit with the North Korean leader will succeed. What is clear is that successful denuclearization will require a combination of bold political decisions – say, formally ending the Korean War, opening liaison offices, or relaxing some economic sanctions – and realistic prudence.

SEOUL – Has North Korea’s ruler, Kim Jong-un, made a strategic decision to trade away his nuclear program, or is he just engaged in another round of deceptive diplomacy, pretending that he will denuclearize in exchange for material benefits for his impoverished country?

This is, perhaps, the key question in the run-up to the summit between Kim and US President Donald Trump in Singapore on June 12. Until then, no one will know the answer, perhaps not even Kim himself.

Optimists tend to believe that Kim’s declared intention to denuclearize is sincere. They highlight the fact that North Korea’s economy has changed fundamentally since he succeeded his father, Kim Jong-il, in 2011. It is now more open, with foreign trade accounting for almost half of GDP, the result of a gradual marketization process that began in the mid-1990s. But with this openness comes vulnerability, which explains Kim’s active diplomatic efforts to prevent serious economic disruption from the existing international sanctions regime.

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