The United States and North Korea have been on a warpath since the post-Second World War era. Their paths have crossed many times yet their leaders never passed a decent glare to each other. However, despite what the world says about US President Donald Trump and his erratic and oftentimes impulsive behaviour, he did break the iceberg, and helped jumpstart relations between Washington and Pyongyang.
The US president met North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in a historic summit in Singapore on June 12, 2018. The 2018 North Korea-United States Summit was a momentous event in the history of both countries when the leaders from these both countries did not only shake hands but also signed agreements. While Donald Trump has become the first sitting US president to visit North Korea, former US presidents did meet with North Korean leaders only after leaving the Oval Office including James Carter and Bill Clinton; while Madeleine Albright, as the United States Secretary of State, visited North Korea in 2000.
The meeting between Trump and Kim brought to the fore an agreement between the two where peaceful relations were envisioned. This will surely ease the tension between the two countries, tensions that they have been locking horns over for ages. Moreover, President Trump has assured to decrease and eventually end joint-military exercises with South Korea. He has also pledged to bring back US troops stationed in South Korea. It is yet to be seen when the US troops are asked to leave South Korea and what impact this will have on North Korea’s ties with South Korea.
“We support diplomacy and peaceful solutions. But there is no agreement on nuclear disarmament and this all looked more like a big welcome party to the nuclear-armed club.”
On the other hand, Kim Jong-Un has vowed to neutralise his nuclear arsenal. There were no concrete agreements signed in regard to Donald Trump’s security guarantees with North Korea. However, the two leaders did signal that they would hold meetings involving high-level state officials who would proceed with the promises made by the two leaders in Singapore. Only time will tell to what extent both US and North Korea follow their promises keeping in mind the political quagmire both are involved in on various fronts.
While Washington wants to, or it seems, aspires to, end all hostility with North Korea, the latter also foresees a smooth-sailing relationship with Washington. It is still unclear how Russia, Iran and Saudi Arabia view US’ move towards North Korea in a show of strengthening its friendship. This friendship may be affected to some extent based on the very idea of how the two countries view denuclearisation. Where the US wants North Korea to disarm its nuclear arsenals as soon as possible, Pyongyang wants to keep its options open and have an open-ended negotiation process where it works in unison with the US, and not take any decision under compulsion.
Perhaps North Korea would not want to let go of its nuclear ambitions entirely and stay with an option where it is able to hit the ‘red button’ during desperate times. Although, it has not pressed it in the past, having it as an option will be North Korea’s magic wand to keep all enemies at bay.
While Washington aspires to end all hostility with North Korea, the latter also foresees a smooth-sailing relationship with Washington. It is still unclear how Russia, Iran and Saudi Arabia view US’ move towards friendship with North Korea
Despite both countries talking about how to end the nuclear race, there are some speculations as indicted by Beatrice Fihn, Head of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). In a Tweet he said, “We support diplomacy and peaceful solutions. But there is no agreement on nuclear disarmament and this all looked more like a big welcome party to the nuclear-armed club.”
This Summit also brings to the fore how President Trump has changed his viewpoint over North Korea and Kim Jong-un over the recent past. While delivering a speech at the 72nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly in September 2017, President Trump mentioned Kim Jong-un a number of times.
He said, “…Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime. But we must do much more…” He also said, “…It is time for all nations to work together to isolate the Kim regime until it ceases its hostile behaviour.” However, now President Trump presents a friendly side of himself at the 2018 North Korea-United States Summit and Kim Jong-un has also acknowledged Washington’s pleasant behaviour.
Global politics and diplomacy calls for nations to portray appropriate behaviour to either get things done or to pass time without much conflict before they can really take any drastic action.
The question arises whether Washington and Pyongyang are really on the same page or just playing along for their vested interests.
The writer is a columnist and author of You Rise Today!
Published in Daily Times, June 21st 2018.