In an attempt to ensure the continuation of his rule, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is expected to enter into serious negotiations with U.S. President Donald Trump when they meet next Tuesday in Singapore, according to an expert on Korean affairs.
The keyword of the historic U.S.-North Korea summit is "survival," Young-Key Kim-Renaud, a professor emeritus of Korean studies at the George Washington University in Washington, said in a recent interview with Kyodo News via email.
She said Kim has stuck to his original objectives: being free from the fear of "being annihilated" by a U.S. invasion, preventing "regime/institutional change" and minimizing "economic distress."
North Korea had carried out ballistic missile and nuclear tests at the rapid pace in recent years in defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions, prompting the United States, Japan and other countries to ramp up economic sanctions.
Late last year, China, North Korea's main economic lifeline, decided to bolster its own sanctions and they are believed to have dealt a severe blow to its neighbor's economy.
In November, Kim also declared that his country has developed an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of striking anywhere in the United States with a nuclear warhead, spurring Trump to repeat that the military option to deal with such threat remains on the table.
For over six decades after the 1950-1953 Korean War ended in a cease-fire, the United States, which led multinational military forces in support of South Korea during the conflict, has remained technically at war with North Korea.
At first, North Korea may have tried to begin negotiations with the United States as a nuclear power, but Trump's tougher stance appears to have forced Kim to change his strategy to achieve his strategic goals.
Since the beginning of the year, North Korea has suddenly extended olive branches to the South and the United States. In early March, Trump announced that he will meet Kim in an effort to resolve the North Korean nuclear crisis.
Kim has recently committed to "complete" denuclearization of North Korea and agreed with South Korean President Moon Jae In in their April 27 summit to strive to formally end the Korean War by the end of this year.
Although Trump in late May initially canceled his own planned summit with Kim after Pyongyang moved to throw Washington off balance, the U.S. president has been making conciliatory gestures since he met a close aide to the North Korean leader.
After meeting with Kim Yong Chol on Friday at the White House, Thump reinstated the summit and said he no longer wants to use the term "maximum pressure" because the United States and North Korea are now "getting along."
"We're going to make sure it's secure," Trump said of Kim's regime, adding that "they have a potential to be a great country."
Kim-Renaud noted, "President Trump says Kim Jong Un will be happy and prosper as a result of the meeting. (Trump) will not call for regime or institutional change in North Korea."
The United States and North Korea are still at odds over how to realize denuclearization on the divided Korean Peninsula.
Washington has sought swift and complete denuclearization, while Pyongyang has been apparently aiming to gain concessions such as easing sanctions by vowing denuclearization in a "phased" and "synchronized" manner.
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, however, said on Sunday, "North Korea will receive relief only when it demonstrates verifiable and irreversible steps to denuclearization."
Kim-Renaud said that Kim is certain to be engaged in sincere negotiations with Trump to attain his cherished goal of regime survival.
"One way out would be for Kim to show the world that he is a new, progressive, young blood in North Korea, and from now on will be different from his father and grandfather and will bring change for a more prosperous and freer North Korea," she said.
"Above all, he needs to earn his trust from the world by continued goodwill gestures, including keeping promises and using civilized language," she added.
Kim-Renaud, meanwhile, urged Trump and Kim to cooperate to achieve peace and stability in the region and across the globe.
"The two heads of the states should go through the list of what they consider the most threatening, and address each, one by one, and find a way of compromise," she said.
"If they can't go so far as agreeing on a timetable, they should at least schedule next working meetings for addressing specific issues. This way, we will buy time and lower the tension in the Korean peninsula and the world," she added.