Retired SU Int'l Relations Expert is Optimistic About Positive Outcome of Summit with N. Korea

Jun 11, 2018

President Trump and Kim Jung Un seen on a news broadcast in Seoul in May.
Credit Ahn Young-joon/AP / via NPR

A Syracuse University international relations expert is calling the upcoming summit between the U.S. and North Korea extremely significant and could set the stage for more progress. 

Stuart Thorson is a professor emeritus from the Maxwell school, and has researched technology and governance North Korea.  He says we’ll have to see if the leaders agree to move in a direction that will perhaps formally end the Korean War, and establish diplomatic relations.

"I've been in several meeting with top North Korean foreign policy officials, and they are, I beleive, sincerely concerned they may be under attack by the United States  and/or some combination of its allies.  So if Trump can do something to be truthfully and robustly reassuring to the North Koreans, I think over time, good things can happen."

Thorson says this is a situation where words are very important to the North Koreans.  He says Kim Jung Un will be prepared and knows exactly what he will say, but it’s not clear President Trump is equally engaged on that front.  Thorson says this will be key if there’s any hope of discussing de-nuclearization. 

"He's going in with the hope and perhaps expectation that North Koreans will agree to some sort of complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization.  I personally can't see that happening in one meeting.  I can imagine certain kinds of steps that might be perceived as leading toward that."

Previous administrations have refused to meet face-to-face with North Korean leadership out of fear that it would legitimize a dictatorship that starves its people and commits other human rights atrocities.  Thorson doesn’t dismiss those concerns, but says the U-S can’t always control other countries.

"We might not like what they do...there are many countries that we don't like what they do.  But that doesn't mean that we should refuse to interact with them in a positive way until we do like what they do.  In fact, we have to be careful because many countries don't like what we're doing right now.  It can be a dangerous road to go down."

Thorson says it’ll be interesting to see how South Korea, Japan, and China react to whatever comes out of the summit.  He says ultimately, any long-term solution has to be regional, not just global.