Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Trump-Kim summit: brief thoughts

My impression, based on articles like this one, is that the Trump-Kim summit was mainly about meeting face to face, getting a few handshake and random-stroll photos, and not much else. An agreement was signed, but it sounds as if the agreement is a preliminary promise, not an action-item-filled list of things that will happen between now and a very specific time.

Kim Jong-un has pledged to disarm his nuclear arsenal and Donald Trump has given security guarantees in a joint statement at the end of a historic summit in Singapore.

The commitments were vaguely worded and did not represent an advance on similar agreements – which have proved hard to enforce – between the two countries over past decades, but the statement said there would be further meetings between senior officials from both countries to continue the momentum of the summit.


The joint statement, signed by the leaders after five hours of talks, laid out a basic bargain. “President Trump committed to provide security guarantees to the DPRK, and Chairman Kim Jong-un reaffirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” it read.

Previous statements, in 1994 and 2005, contained similar promises but those agreements broke down over differences of interpretation and spats over verification.

Moreover, there is a gulf between the two sides idea over what denuclearization will mean. Washington is pushing for complete North Korean disarmament as quickly as possible, while Pyongyang wants an open-ended process of negotiation in which it is treated as an equal.

Beatrice Fihn, the head of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), said in a tweet: “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.”

Kim undertook to cooperate with the US in the recovery of remains of US soldiers killed in the Korean war, a longstanding US request which has so far produced only limited assistance.

Trump said the signed document was historic and comprehensive and Kim said the pair had agreed to “leave the past behind”. Posing for photographs afterwards, Trump said he had learned that Kim was a “very talented man” who loved his country.

Before the signing, Trump said the Singapore discussions had gone “better than anybody could have imagined”.

That last part sounds like a lot of spin to me. But on the bright side, this appears to be a good first step: nobody went out of his or her way to piss anybody off, so there's that. At the very least, the door is now open for more face-to-face meetings. A coworker of mine heard somewhere that Trump has invited Kim to visit the White House. That's the sort of gesture that's guaranteed to be spun negatively as dictator-coddling, but let's see where all this leads. If a deal results that eventually ends up injecting a measure of capitalism into the country (aside from the homegrown, grass-roots capitalism currently supplementing the disaster that is North Korea's centrally planned economy), that might be a good thing. For the moment, I remain skeptical that anything substantive has been accomplished, but I'm open to being shown how wrong I am.

The Guardian: What We Know So Far.

Off to the side, we've got Dennis Rodman weepily praising the two countries' seeming rapprochement and noting that Obama had given him the cold shoulder ("Obama didn't even give me the time of day"), whereas Trump had acknowledged Rodman's diplomatic efforts (if "diplomatic" is the correct adjective here) and even thanked the ex-basketballer.

Is this the moment when detractors go after Trump for saying it was "an honor" to meet Kim, in the same way that detractors went after Obama for seemingly bowing before the king of Saudi Arabia? All this has happened before...


Charles said...

I think this is the best we could have hoped for. As I saw Trump say afterward, there were no missiles flying, so... win?

King Baeksu said...

I've argued for many months that the quickest, surest path to peace is for the US to accept the DPRK's nukes, while ensuring it dismantles its ICBMs, meaning a strike on the US would be all but impossible, and also guarantees nonproliferation of WMDs to countries like Iran and Syria.

The joint statement released in Singapore does not mention CVID but does reiterate the DPRK's vague commitment to "denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula," which most North Korea watchers argue will never happen.

I think this is a de-facto way for Trump to accept the DPRK's nukes without having to face a backlash from the neocons and hawks in Washington. The model here is similar to how RLDs operate in South Korea: They are officially illegal, yet there is always a police station nearby just to keep an eye on things. This is a reasonable compromise, since the public would be outraged if prostitution were legalized here, even if most will concede that they provide a necessary outlet.

In other words, less CVID, more of an ROK RLD thing. I think it could work!