Time will tell if summit yields peace

Editorial | Mary Ma 13 Jun 2018

The summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un concluded with neither a timetable or roadmap to denuclearization - not even complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization.

So that begs the question: is this Trump-Kim agreement lacking in details a valid one?

Clearly, both sides had a strong need to reach the detente. It's ironic. While Trump did his best to scuttle post-war relationships with America's western allies, following the unhappy G7 meeting in Canada, he stretched his arms to their fullest to reach out to the leader of the rogue regime he had loathed.

Trump desperately needed an achievement in the runup to the US mid-term elections. After getting mired in trade wars with literally everyone, he looked to make peace with a longtime enemy, in search of an achievement that none of his predecessors had managed to score.

He got one. But it was ironic the opportunity was thrown his way by "Fatty Kim III," whom he had ridiculed as "Little Rocket Man" not so long ago.

Their joint declaration was very general, with pledges to cultivate new bilateral ties according to people's desire, build a lasting and stable peace regime on the peninsula, and reaffirm the April 27 Panmunjom declaration to complete denuclearization, as well as recover the remains of prisoners of war, and those missing in action during the Korean War.

Trump committed to providing security guarantees to Pyongyang in the joint statement, which Kim coveted the most.

Understandably, denuclearization is a process subject to future interaction between the Americans and North Korea. While the Sentosa declaration is a milestone, it would be naive to think that it's going to be plain sailing thereafter. Interaction in the next few months will be crucial.

Nonetheless, it was a still major milestone that was previously deemed impossible.

Has Trump yielded to Kim? Perhaps. But it was also a gamble for the North Korean strongman. Should he believe in the US president who is known for his unpredictability? Will Trump renege on the security guarantee?

These are calculations left to the politician. For people in general, it's always good to see world peace.

Critics were quick to point out the Kim-Trump declaration was flimsy on denuclearization. However, given North Korea's poor track record of honoring promises in the past, could Kim be reviving the tricks played by his father and grand-dad?

That's a valid concern. The picture will be clearer after a few rounds of follow-up negotiations.

Despite the two leaders' unpopularity, the summit was a game changer. How will Tokyo and Seoul react to Trump's words that he may end the annual joint military exercise, and his hint that American soldiers would be withdrawn from the region?

It's definitely a concern for both Tokyo and Seoul.

It could be a game changer for China too. I wonder whether Beijing would like to see Trump and Kim warm their friendship quickly with visits to each other's capital. At stake is the regional geopolitical balance currently in Beijing's favor.

It's probably Kim's desire to develop North Korea's economy, to become less dependent on China. His courting of Uncle Sam was part of the strategy.

Will Kim denuclearize himself? Let's wait and see.

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