Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST: 

For months, negotiations between the U.S. and North Korea on how to end North Korea's nuclear program have been stalled - well, until now.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

A North Korean delegation has arrived in Washington, and they're meeting Secretary of State Mike Pompeo today.

GREENE: I want to turn to Suzanne DiMaggio. She's senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. And she helped arrange some of the Trump administration's earlier informal talks with North Korea. Welcome back to the program.

SUZANNE DIMAGGIO: Good morning. It's great to be with you.

GREENE: Well, we appreciate your time. What are you expecting from these talks in Washington?

DIMAGGIO: I think it's looking like Kim Yong Chol is coming to Washington to firm up the details for a second summit unless...

GREENE: And he's the top negotiator from North Korea, right?

DIMAGGIO: Absolutely. He is Secretary Pompeo's counterpart in the negotiations. He reportedly is going to deliver a letter to President Trump from Kim. And I expect that they'll announce a summit soon.

GREENE: Any idea of when, where that summit might take place, if there's going to be another presidential summit?

DIMAGGIO: Yes. Their earlier report said it likely will take place in Vietnam, either Hanoi or Da Nang, probably in March.

GREENE: So pretty soon - what is laying the foundation for the two countries to want to hold another summit? I mean, since Kim Jong Un and President Trump met in June, I mean, has either side actually gotten anything?

DIMAGGIO: Well, since Singapore, which is now over seven months ago, there really has been very little concrete progress. It's more or less been a photo op on the world stage. So I think the second summit is an opportunity for the U.S. to come to the table and try to formulate a policy going forward that will actually end up with results.

I think the U.S. failed to do the diplomatic work prior to and following the Singapore summit to capitalize on this breakthrough. And we shouldn't repeat that same mistake in the lead-up to a second summit. There's still time to do that.

DIMAGGIO: So talking about repeating mistakes. I mean, if the Trump administration does not do the important diplomatic work that you're talking about and if this is seen as another, quote, unquote, "photo op," does it start to get dangerous? Like, you're giving Kim kind of, you know, these photo opportunities on the world stage and seeming like he's important and, you know, in talks with the United States but not having to actually do anything to denuclearize.

DIMAGGIO: Well, after this meeting in Washington, the U.S. special rep for North Korea, Steve Biegun, reportedly will fly to Stockholm, where he'll meet his counterpart. And these two people will be responsible for negotiating the details of anything that comes out of the summit. So that's a good and positive development. And that should be a series of very intense meetings over time up until the summit. We'll see if that happens.

I mean, on the upside, we've seen a sharp reduction in tension, no talk of fire and fury. But without progress soon, we can see easily slipping toward a ratcheting tension quickly. And that's one thing that worries me. What do we do then when it seems like diplomacy has been exhausted?

GREENE: Suzanne DiMaggio is a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Thanks a lot.

DIMAGGIO: My pleasure. Thank you.

This interview was orignally broadcasted on NPR's Morning Edition.