It is expected that a second summit between US President Donald Trump and Marshall Kim Jong Un is in the works and a date and time is soon to be announced. Whether or not all the details have been agreed yet remains to be seen but Donald Trump, anxious for a political victory amidst his government shutdown anarchy, seems very keen to hold a summit in the very near future.
Recent headlines suggest Kim Yong Chol, a high-level Pyongyang official who has played a significant role in recent diplomatic overtures from the DPRK, will be visiting Washington D.C for a meeting with White House officials. After months of stalled diplomacy resulting in the DPRK side cancelling a meeting with the US in late 2018 the news of this visit suggests that efforts are being made on both sides to reignite the negotiations. Meanwhile, the relationship between Pyongyang and Seoul has continued to blossom with the government of the Republic of Korea recently announcing a revision to their defence white paper to remove references to the DPRK as an 'enemy'. This was another largely symbolic move on Seoul's part but one which does nonetheless foster a peaceful atmosphere on the peninsula.
The next major move in the relationship between the US and DPRK would be to announce a second leaders summit with the goal of restarting stalled talks. US VP Mike Pence recently made a speech to US ambassadors in which he acknowledged the lack of concrete and verifiable steps towards denuclearisation taken by Pyongyang. The big question is whether or not Pyongyang and Washington make progress at a second summit. If not, the talks may continue to stall until one side loses patience and calls off all negotiations, returning to the dangerous rhetoric which plagued the US-DPRK relationship before 2018.
A sign that Pyongyang is beginning to lose patience with the United States can be found in the propaganda being produced for the year. NK News reported earlier this month on the new posters released in the DPRK for the year ahead. One of these posters displayed on Korean Central TV seems to depict the United States as an aggressor, something which has been notably removed from state media since the US-DPRK summit in 2018. The poster depicts two hands presenting a banner titled 'Peace and Prosperity' whilst outside the hands there is a dark grey background in which an F-35 and C-17 aircraft are depicted along with others. This is a marked shift from last year's sudden halting of anti-US rhetoric and propaganda. Anti-US posters and memorabilia were no longer sold to tourists and the town of Sinchon (the site of the Museum of American War Atrocities and of a reported genocide against North Korean citizens by the US military during the war) has been closed to foreign visitors.
Despite the atmosphere on the Korean peninsula seeming relatively peaceful at the moment it's important to remember that only a few weeks ago the DPRK released a statement which suggests that if talks with the US continue to be a fruitless endeavour there are 'other options' available to Pyongyang. Most experts agree that Pyongyang is alluding to a return to the hostile foreign policy which it has maintained for most of the 21st century. The recent meeting with Xi Jingping in Beijing proves to the US administration that the DPRK still has allies in the region allowing them to threaten to cancel all talks with the US and return to violent rhetoric and weapons development. Whether or not 2019 will see any of these major questions answered remains to be seen.