Singapore Kim-Trump Summit: A first step toward ending the last cold war conflict

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, by WON Youngsu

On June 12th, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and U.S. president Donald Trump met at the historical summit in Singapore, which concluded with the joint statement by both the leaders. In essence, this summit confirmed the spirit of the Panmoonjeon Declaration that had been signed at North-South Korean Summit on April 27.

However, the joint statement of the mutual agreement creates some confusions among the supporters and critics of the summit. Compared with high expectations, the final agreement was rather simple, not containing any decisive or concrete details.

 Conflicting interpretations of the summit results

First of all, the adversaries of Trump within the U.S. attacked Trump for failing to secure the CVID (complete, veritable, irreversible denuclearization) from the North Korean delegation.

Furthermore, Trump’s mention of his intention to stop joint military exercises (“expensive war games”) during the negotiation, which have been used as pretext for North Korean government to reject any cooperation with South Korea and the United States, is cited as a huge concession.

However, those who want denuclearization and peace in Korea, as well as Trump, welcomed the success of the summit, emphasizing the importance of taking the first step toward the complete denuclearization and the end of mutual hostility between two side. Though the end of the war was not declared, the step toward peace was decisively taken.

 Who won?

Trump’s critics claim the winner of the summit was Kim Jong-un and North Korea, as well as China and South Korea. The most common critique is that he failed to secure the CVID. Thus, most of leading Democrats and some of Republican leaders regard this summit as a failure, casting doubts on Trump’s capability to carry on intelligent negotiation with one of the most tough adversaries.

In South Korea, a few of extreme right-wing, self-claimed pundits attacked Trump as “a poor tradesman”, and for being manipulated by Kim Jong-un’s tricks, though an absolute majority were satisfied with the result of the summit.

However, the question who was the winner at the summit is rather meaningless and out of context. In spite of zig-zags in preparing the summit, both sides reached the agreement that reconfirmed the goal of denuclearization and peace, and thus, opened the way for complete denuclearization of Korean peninsula.

 Trump’s weakness and Kim’s strength

Donald Trump has been known as a maestro of negotiation, but in the talks with North Korea, he made several mistakes. Fundamentally, the U.S. vilified North Korea for disrespect for human rights, terrorism, and so on, denying any rights of North Korea as a nation. Thus, the U.S. lacked proper information of how the regime functions and who they are.

Though the details of long negotiation are not fully known, North Korea’s proposals seemed to be more rational than the reckless approach of the U.S. government. Clearly, the process of denuclearization cannot be done within couples of months, and the approach through appropriate steps is more reasonable.

And Trump’s abrupt cancellation of the summit and its resumption several days later was a fatal mistake for an expert negotiator. Trump couldn’t give a clear reason to cancel the negotiation, and his tactics maximum pressure eventually proved to be a failure.

And diplomatically, Kim’s reconciliation with China was a strategic move. China also has no reason to keep North Korea away as long as Kim Jong-un clearly express his will to denuclearization. Thus, in the summit, North Korea was in a better position to persuade the counterpart of the negotiation. In this sense, the Singapore summit was a successful debut for Kim Jung-un.

Kim stopped military provocations and resolutely shifted his policy from confrontation to peaceful negotiation. As long as he maintains his position of denuclearization, he has strength in the negotiation with U.S. and the others.

 Towards the end of cold war?

Jokingly, a huge presence of media crews of 5,000 journalists from all over the world was the most spectacular scene. The summit as such was Just a first step, and success for peace in Korea. South Koreans welcome the final result and are relieved to secure potentially permanent peace.

For North Korea, Kim Jung-un repeatedly confirmed his will of the denuclearization, and this summit is supposed to save them from the unnecessary burden of confrontations and possibly a war. The summit was a significant diplomatic success, which will enable North Korea to devote its capacities to economic development.

However, the success of the Singapore summit was a first step for further tough negotiation between two sides, which skillfully exchanged the recognition of the North Korean regime and the complete denuclearization. Thus, the Korean peninsula took a historic step to stop the decades of antagonistic confrontation and move toward mutual cooperation, ending the last zone of the cold war on the globe.

And the next day of the Singapore summit, in regional, local and municipal election and a dozen of by-election of MPs, the government party won a overwhelming victory, while the opposition parties that constantly found faults with the President Moon Jae-in and his approach to North Korea were crucially defeated, driven into a critical crisis.

Youngsu Won
International Forum in Korea

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