President Trump and Kim Jong-un met today in the first ever summit between a US President and a North Korean leader. The meeting, previously cancelled by Trump in mid-May, was re-organised and held on Sentosa Island, Singapore. The pair promised to work towards complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, but the joint statement did little to formalise this key pledge.
“Reaffirming the April 27, 2018 Panmunjom Declaration, the DPRK commits to work towards complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula.”
This doesn’t meet Washington’s long-stated goal of complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement of North Korea’s nuclear weaponry, but simply restates North Korea’s agreement with South Korea.
This clause also provided no timescale for disarmament. Trump did provide more details however in a downright weird press conference after the meeting, the first he’s held in over a year.
“Scientifically you have to wait certain periods of time,” he said, “but once you start the process it means it’s pretty much over.” He added that the process would start “very soon” and sanctions would be removed “when we are sure the nukes are no longer a factor.”
“I actually look forward to taking them off.”
U.S Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will follow up negotiations “at the earliest possible date” the joint statement said.
CNN reported that China meanwhile made a statement saying sanctions on North Korea could be adjusted to support nuclear settlement on the peninsula.
“China always holds the view that sanctions are not the goal. Actions by the UN Security Council should support and coordinate with the current diplomatic dialogues and efforts on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and the promotion of a political settlement on the peninsula issue,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang.
Speaking about demilitarising the area, Trump could offer even less specificity, saying “I want to get our soldiers out. I want to bring our soldiers back home. But that’s not part of the equation right now. I hope it will be eventually.”
In a moment of unexpected self effacement, Trump told the press conference that he had agreed to stop the “war games.” Not only are they “very provocative,” but he would save the United States “a tremendous amount of money,” he added. That’s a major concession and a win for Kim.
Human rights, in which North Korea excels at butchering and torturing its population, barely got a mention.
The significance of this meeting of course is symbolic, not practical. The fact that the two met at all, and ended their discussion with a joint statement that’s made clear their motivation to move towards denuclearisation is what matters. Even if the statement is vague and non-committal. The summit in the very least provides the two countries with something to build on.
This all seems very positive, but it would have been ultimately disappointing if we ended the whole thing without even a single Trumpism.
In this lengthy press conference Trump said that Kim Jong-un accepted his invitation to the White House, stressing that he “really believes” his new friend will keep his word. He added that he told Kim North Korea could even become a tourist destination.
“Instead of [testing missiles] you could have the best hotels in the world right there. Think of it from a real estate perspective.”
Everything is a real estate play with him.
This may be a historic occasion and the start of a hugely important peace process, but at the end of the day Trump is still going to be Trump…