Tough talk begs question of need

Editorial | Mary Ma 8 Jun 2018

At this stage, nothing can sabotage the Singapore summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean strongman Kim Jong Un - not even the offensive remark by Trump's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, that Kim had begged on his hands and knees for it to happen .

Trump is surrounded by both people who want the talks to succeed, as well as those who want to see failure.

Hardline national security adviser John Bolton was kicked to the sidelines after stating that North Korea would follow the destiny of ill-fated Libya, which was toppled after giving up its efforts to acquire nuclear capability.

Bolton's call threatened the summit, but Trump - instead of echoing his adviser's opinion - publicly went back on the rhetoric.

Now Giuliani is trying to upset the apple cart, claiming in Tel Aviv that following Trump's earlier decision to cancel the summit, "Kim Jong Un got back on his hands and knees and begged for it, which is exactly the position you want to put him in."

What an insulting statement!

As Trump had stopped referring to his opponent as the "little rocket man," while Kim ceased calling the US president "mentally deranged Dotard," Giuliani's ridiculing of Kim was indeed intriguing.

Giuliani's characterization was an exaggeration, even if Kim did yield to Trump - although not necessarily on his hands and knees - to rescue the summit.

In politics, everything is borne out of need. Since the time of Kim's father, Kim Jong Il, it's been the family dynasty's policy to play the nuclear card in exchange for economic aid. If the father had relied on old comrade China for food and economic aid, "Fatty Kim III" is obviously doing his best to broaden his reach to embrace Uncle Sam, Pyongyang's arch enemy.

What a coup it would be for Kim if Las Vegas bosses can be enticed into building gaming and ski resorts in the hermit kingdom!

It's a ritual in both the political and commercial worlds to talk tough before negotiations, so the Sentosa Island summit is no exception. However, there is absolutely room for flexibility when it comes to the actual talks, as both sides have something each other wants.

Washington wants to denuclearize North Korea and woo the Beijing-tilted Pyongyang regime in its direction.

There are at least three prospective developments to watch out for in Tuesday's summit that - if it starts promisingly - may carry on for an extra day. These include progress on denuclearization, economic assistance, and a formal declaration of an end to the Korean War.

Understandably, China is watching the situation warily. A recent editorial carried by state media Global Times shed light on that.

Amid reports that South Korean President Moon Jae In may join the summit to formalize the declaration ending the 1950-53 Korean War, the communist government mouthpiece said any declaration without Beijing's participation would be void.

It's evident that China fears the geopolitical balance on the peninsula can be upset if Kim becomes too buddy-buddy with the Americans.

Trump is chomping at the bit to fly to the Lion City for his powwow with Kim, knowing the event can yield him political dividends in time for the US mid-term elections - payoffs that his rowdy threats of trade wars with China and Western allies don't guarantee.

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