Events relating to the Korean Peninsula are shaping at a rate of knots signalling a potential breakthrough in partnerships and relationships between nation(s) that has been harbouring overbearing and insolent ambition(s) to paint itself as the most powerful of all nations (North Korea); and those terrified and fearstricken with a sense of uncertainty/unpredictability to the consequences in the near term and long term.
North Korean participation in the Winter Olympics in February 2018, however, set the tone for easing tensions in the region.
After months of treating insults and nuclear threats with North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, U.S. President, Donald Trump, agreed in early March to a proposed summit sometime later. At that time it was speculated that the summit will likely be cancelled once or twice before actually taking place.
White House confirmed on March 8, 2018, .the proposed meeting between leaders of North Korea and U.S.
President Donald Trump tweeted on May 10, 2018, ” the highly anticipated meeting between Kim Jong Un and myself will take place in Singapore on June12th. We’ll both try to make it a very special moment for World Peace !”
An InterKorean summit took place on April 27, 2018, in Panmunjom (North Korea) where South Korean President, Moon Jae-in, and North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, agreed to end the Korean War before the end of the year.
On May 8, President Donald Trump announced his decision to withdraw from the Iran Nuclear Deal. There have been views expressed for and against this influencing the process of the June 12, summit meeting.
On May 9, 2018, U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, returned with three captive Americans from North Korea; and Donald Trump thanked Kim Jong Un saying he strongly believes that Kim wants to reach an agreement on denuclearising the Korean Peninsula. “We are starting off on a new footing. This is a wonderful thing that he released the folks early”, said Donald Trump. He also believed that Kim wanted to bring North Korea into the real World; and had high hopes for their planned meeting which would be the first between a serving U.S. President and a North Korean leader. ” My proudest achievement will be – this is part of it – when we denuclearise the entire Peninsula”, Donald Trump averred.
On May 24, 2018, North Korea discarded the Punggye-ri nuclear site ensuring transparency of the suspension of nuclear tests. Media from U.K.; Russia; China; and U.S. were invited to the ceremony of demolition of the nuclear site. But 8 South Korean journalists were excluded in protest against an exercise that South Korea engaged in with the U.S. military. On May 15, 2018, North Korea cited this violation and threatened to cut off the Summit. North Korea felt that its closing the Punggye-ri site was a positive move ahead of the Summit and the military exercise jeopardised that gesture. North Korea added that, “sabre rattling and dialogue cannot go together”. North Korea also boasted about its nuclear strength.
U.S. officially backed out of the Summit on May 24, 2018, citing the tremendous anger and open hostility, and North Korea’s self boasting of nuclear strength to the detriment of other nations’ safety. “World is losing a great opportunity for peace”, said Donald Trump.
Within a day, (on May 25, 2018), President Donald Trump reversed course while saying that he still kept the Summit options open, a change influenced possibly by the conciliatory tone of North Korean leader that the Summit objective of peace is important.
On May 26, 2018, there was a surprise meeting between South Korean President, Moon Jae-in, and North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, during which they agreed that the North Korea – U.S. Summit must be held.
Sung Kim, former U.S. ambassador to South Korea, is leading an American delegation (with Pentagon official, Randall Schriver; and the Korean expert on the White House National Security Council, Allison Hooker) to meet with Choe Son-hui, the North Korean Vice Foreign Minister (May 28 & 29) at Tongilgek, North’s building in Ponmanjum, where the truce suspending the 1950-1953 Korean War was signed.
About 30 staffers led by Joe Hagin, Deputy White House Chief of Staff, from both the White House and the State Department will meet with Korean counterparts to make preparations for the Summit in Singapore – said White House Press secretary, Sarah Sanders on May 26, 2018.
Why and what the Summit for ? U.S. demands complete, verifiable, and irreversible dismantlement of North Korea’s Nuclear Weapons Program. Pyongyang rejected unilateral disarmament and has always talked in terms of denuclearising of the Korean Peninsula. That is that Washington should remove its troops from South Korea, and withdraw its so called nuclear umbrella of deterrence from South Korea and Japan.
Kim Jong Un has not offered anything significant on denuclearising or any other concessions for U.S. to finally agree to the Summit.
White House officials feel that the success of the Summit could prop up Trump’s approval ratings; place him at a highly respected level; shield him against ongoing investigations; and help Republicans in their mid term elections.
Summit meeting and fulfillment of its goals are a long process (in terms of years, Iran deal negotiations took more than 2 years). This meeting may well be like the conference attendees leaving with more information; little more networking; little more confidence; with lots more effort to be made thereafter independently and jointly than when they took part in the first meet. This probably at best can be called ‘update’ and green signal to proceed with talks and techniques learnt in the meet/conference.
Will this be (if and when held) a less than purposeful summit? Both parties would not like to lose their hold and say in the Summit discussions. This is also not any annual event unlike in business, but one with capacity to extend for years into the future. Both stand to benefit by the deal. Three key aspects need mention here.
1. “One Vision ” : Both parties have their vision set clearly. For the U.S. it is complete denuclearisation of North Korea so that threat to the U.S. as well as the World at large are kept at bay. For DPRK it is extracting enough concessions from the U.S. and others (Other trade partners in the years ahead) to grow and strengthen North Korean economy; strength in key growth sectors; and increasing the living standards of its citizens even while preserving its military strength nationally.
2. ” One Nation” : Both parties have their key national goals to meet. For the U.S. it is ensuring safety and security of its citizens, besides the personal success of the President conferring, (a) a legacy achievement; (b) enhanced image with higher approval ratings; and (c) help the party in mid term elections. For DPRK the benefits are similar. The meet will spell for Kim Jong Un (a) an accomplishment that the nation can be proud of; (b) enhanced image nationally; and (c,) help promote North Korea’s growth trajectory.
3. What will be more significant is that the entire world is paying attention to the Summit and it’s outcome; and what opinions they will hold; and what they will say when asked about post-summit priorities; action plan for going forward; the possible obstacles that can emerge and how they can be tackled; possible nature of integration and cooperation between countries accelerating the Summit plan; the central theme and focus of a safe future for the common good of the two nations and the world.
Just about 4 to 6 months ago, the entire world was angered, concerned, and shocked at the rhetorics coming from the Presidents of the two nations (following a succession of missile and nuclear tests by DPRK), the people all over the world were losing faith in peace and security – a setting that I’m tempted to compare with the financial disaster of 2008 and its impact, when investors had to face the words of greedy managers breaking their promises; the problems that investors had to face to recover their wealth; and the turmoil that followed in relationships, personal and social. The net result was a loss of confidence; a trend that suspects the assertions and promises of leaders/managers; and ultimately leading to fear psychosis. The psychological impact was much worse than the financial loss.
Shaking up things as regulations; oversight; and punishment to the erring helped restore people confidence, and bring back growth to normal. The two leaders, President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un face a task which is similar but with dangerous consequences.
Turnaround in Politics is not as simple as in business, requiring time, effort, and resources not just in huge measure but crossing unimagined hurdles of uncertainty; multiple issues to be addressed as time moves on; challenges to co-ordinate the effort; need to deflect attempts to interfere by other powers with biased interests; the willingness of the concerned nations to make meaningful contributions to the Summit goals and to prepare the World for a new Global Structure dismantling the existing troubled order.
The two leaders have a lot at stake to make the structure of the Summit to work first.
The rhythm and pace of the Summit (if held on June 12) from the time a possibility surfaced in February/March 2018 have been so swift with a few surprises and apprehensions along the way, that to make it finally come alive with well organised and structured discussions will be a task that will ever be remembered should the final outcome can make the safety and security of nations better by even an incremental step ahead.
(a) It may be essential to constitute a ‘Working Forum’ combining members from the U.S., North Korea, and South Korea for follow up actions and collaboration.
(b) What is needed is to stimulate the practical and ambitious commitments of DPRK leader for the complete denuclearisation. A clear view of the observations, comments, and opinions held by a large number of nations (mostly negative) of the World be provided/presented to him to bring about an attitudinal change in him.
(c) Working Forum to constantly track the commitments made during the Summit. Devise a mechanism to verify the claims of North Korea in abandoning its nuclear program vis-a-vis their commitments and the steps in detail. It needs also to provide answers to all questions that emerged prior to the Summit irrespective of the participating nations within a month or two.
The above points will help take the Summit to a higher level of success with potential to make it a memorable (historic) event in Politics even while the observers including all the people will describe whether they remain optimistic about the Summit. Are you optimistic?
“Dieu avec nous”
Monday, May 28, 2018 – 11.59 p.m. (IST)
Tidbit: ” Complete freezing of North Korea’s nuclear program is what the U.S. wants”.