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'Trump may meet N. Korean leader soon'

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North Korean leader Kim Jong-unNorth Korean leader Kim Jong-un
President-elect Donald TrumpNorth Korean leader Kim Jong-un

By Jane Han

Dr. Han Park, director and professor at University of Georgia.
Dr. Han Park, director and professor at University of Georgia.
DALLAS — Amid anticipation that America's next commander-in-chief will introduce a sharp and significant foreign policy shift, a prominent North Korean expert predicts that a meeting between Donald Trump and Pyongyang's despot Kim Jong-un may happen soon.

"Such a meeting could take place relatively soon," Dr. Han Park, director and professor emeritus of public and international affairs at the University of Georgia, said in an interview with The Korea Times.

"It is because Trump may wish to show the world that he is in charge of creating new policy initiatives and meeting with Kim is a low-hanging fruit that is definitely attractive."

Park, who has visited Pyongyang about 50 times, has worked with numerous U.S. administrations and served as an unofficial negotiator between the U.S. and North Korea to mediate tensions.

One of the more well-known involvements was when Park visited Pyongyang in 2009 to help the release of Laura Ling and Euna Lee, two American journalists who had been detained by the communist state while filming a documentary along the China-North Korea border.

As far as the possible meeting between Trump and Kim goes, Russia may play a role.

"The meeting may take place in Russia, hosted by Putin, or at a neutral international forum such as the United Nations," Park said.

While on the campaign trail, Trump suggested several times that he would handle North Korea differently from the way democratic President Barack Obama has done over the past eight years.

In June, the businessman-turned-president-elect made headlines by saying he would hold a summit with North Korea's reckless leader "over hamburgers."

Besides being a potential intermediary for Trump and Kim, Russia is likely to get involved in the Trump administration's overall North Korea policy.

In the first 100 days of office, "Trump's inclination is to defy all the punitive sanctions applied by the Obama administration," said Park, who largely projected a sharp deviation from the age-old practice of "demonizing North Korea with a never-ending string" of economic sanctions and political isolation.

"He will bring in Putin's Russia as the primary partner for articulating policies toward North Korea," he said.

The new president will attempt to prove that a sanctioned and impoverished North Korea will not be conducive to American interests, he said, adding that Trump will immediately evaluate the economic value of North Korea to the U.S.

One area of interest for Trump would be the value of North Korean mineral resources to American commercial interests.

"The foreign policy of the Trump administration will be guided by twin objectives of protectionism and economic determinism," said Park, who noted that Trump's presidency has opened a period of uncertainty for the world in "all conceivable political contexts."

In the aftermath of the stunning U.S. election result, it is possible North Korea will be more provocative in advancing its security policy, as well as political maneuverings toward Seoul.

Kim will assume that the U.S. security alliance with South Korea may erode, Park said, increasing South Korea's security vulnerability.

In response to Trump's election, South Korean President Park Geun-hye will "have to overhaul her security politics and policies, beginning with a basic shift in the security paradigm," Park said.

While some experts express concerns over the unpredictable and uncertain policies of Trump, Dr. Park expresses a level of optimism.

"Today provides an opportunity to invite a restructuring of inter-Korea relations for both South and North Korea, which would be a great challenge and opportunity for the two Koreas that have been partitioned for 70 years," he said.


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