US President Donald Trump’s meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore was a historic event. It is the first time that current heads of the two countries have met on 12 June. The historic handshake between the two leaders is significant for future US-North Korean relations. Trump has pledged to suspend military exercises with South Korea on the Korean Peninsula. And Kim has promised to dismantle nuclear test site and start to denuclearization process. The summit, the first between a sitting U.S. president and a North Korean leader, was in stark contrast to a flurry of North Korean nuclear and missile tests and angry exchanges of insults between Trump and Kim last year that fueled worries about war.
At the conclusion of the summit, the two leaders issued a joint statement pledging to establish new relations, build a peace regime on the Korean Peninsula, and committing to the recovery and repatriation of the remains of American prisoners of war and soldiers missing in action in North Korea. The statement said that Trump had ‘committed to provide security guarantees’ to the North and that Kim had reaffirmed his ‘firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula’. This normalizing situation echoing a pledge he had made in the Panmunjom Declaration, issued following a similarly unprecedented meeting with his South Korean counterpart Moon Jae-in in April.
In the following statement, President Trump and Chairman Kim states that:
1. The United States and the DPRK commit to establish new US-DPRK relations in accordance with the desire of the peoples of the two countries for peace and prosperity.
2. The United States and DPRK will join their efforts to build a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.
3. Reaffirming 27 April, 2018 Panmunjom Declaration, the DPRK commits to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
4. The United States and the DPRK commit to recovering POW/MIA remains, including the immediate repatriation of those already identified.
Trump and Kim promised in a joint statement to work toward the ‘denuclearization’ of the Korean Peninsula, and the United States promised its Cold War foe security guarantees. But they offered few specifics. In a press conference after the two leaders signed the statement, Trump pledged to suspend annual U.S.-South Korea joint military exercises—which are next scheduled for August. The North had promised to destroy a ballistic missile engine testing facility. But the details of how and when the North would denuclearize appear yet not to be determined.
A major obstacle to reaching and implementing any nuclear deal is that the U.S. and North Korea have differing definitions of denuclearization on the Korean peninsula. North Korea wants the extended nuclear deterrence the United States offers South Korea included in any deal, while Washington sees the issue as the dismantling and removal of North Korea’s nuclear weapons and facilities. Observers welcomed the summit as a breakthrough for the two leaders, who in recent months had exchanged insults and war threats, but said that talks going forward would need to include more specifics in order to gauge North Korea’s readiness to give up its weapons program.
North Korea says U.S. President Donald Trump has agreed to a ‘step-by-step’ denuclearization process, with each country taking simultaneous, reciprocal steps to ease tensions and establish peace between the longtime enemies. North Korea’s first official statement early on June 13 after a historic summit between Trump and its leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore was delivered by the official Korean Central News Agency.
The statement appeared to go beyond the agreement signed a day earlier by the two leaders, saying that both leaders recognized during their meeting that it is important to abide by the principle of step-by-step and simultaneous action in achieving peace, stability, and denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. The statement said Kim also invited Trump to visit North Korea, and the president accepted, while it said Kim also accepted an invitation from Trump to visit Washington.
North Korea’s assertion that the leaders agreed to take a phased approach to disarmament, if true, could be seen as a concession by Trump, who has previously called for the swift and total elimination of Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons and has said the United States would only agree to lift sanctions once that is accomplished.
Moreover, some experts say North Korea’s demand that the two countries take reciprocal steps to ease tensions could be a ploy to win concessions while delaying disarmament. The statement appeared to tie Pyongyang’s steps to lay down nuclear weapons to steps by the United States to halt ‘irritating and hostile military actions’ such as joint military drills with South Korea that have repeatedly antagonized North Korea.
After landing in US on 13 June, Trump tweeted, ‘The World has taken a big step back from potential nuclear catastrophe!’ No more rocket launches, nuclear testing, or research! Hostages back home with their families. Thank you to Chairman Kim, our day together was historic!’ He added, ‘President Obama said that North Korea was our biggest and most dangerous problem. No longer – sleep well tonight!’
Trump succeeds and previous 11 presidents failed:
The core issue to resolve at the meeting between Trump and Kim is not only North Korea’s denuclearization, but also evolving peace process in Korean peninsula. Pyongyang’s willingness to denuclearize is already clear. The US is prepared to give North Korea the guarantee of its security which is its main demand. There is no doubt that Pyongyang can disable and dismantle its nuclear arsenal. It is only a question of process. But it will not do so if the US insists on unilateral denuclearization without any reciprocal commitment. There have historical record of US failures to deliver peace and security to the Korean Peninsula. Successive US administrations have failed to offer and guarantee a security arrangement acceptable to Pyongyang and have repeatedly walked away from opportunities to strike a deal.
The recent remarks by National Security Adviser John Bolton and Vice President Mike Pence – which quickly led to a flare-up in rhetoric and a temporary suspension of the planned summit – show that such attitudes persist in Washington. It was this type of thinking that made US negotiators chooses the language of aggression, ideological posturing and confrontation over compromise 64 years ago.
At the Geneva conference in 1954, the USSR, China, the US, the UK and France had gathered to decide the fate of the Korean Peninsula. Then-US Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, serving under 34th US President Dwight Eisenhower, maintained an intractable position which in essence demanded something close to capitulation from his adversaries. Although the 1953 temporary armistice signed by all sides in the Korean War was predicated on subsequent good faith negotiations to settle the political issue, he refused to negotiate directly with the Chinese. Dulles also made it a point to snub the Chinese envoy, Zhou Enlai, by refusing to shake his hand and left the conference early.
Throughout the 1960s (under the 35th president John F. Kennedy and 36th president Lyndon Baines Johnson administrations), relations between the US and North Korea were understandably hostile. In 23 January, 1968, the North Koreans intercepted and captured the USS Pueblo, a US Navy intelligence vessel. On April 15, 1969, a US Navy Lockheed EC-121M was shot down by North Korean MiG-21 aircraft over the Sea of Japan, killing 31 American personnel.
In the 1970s, North Korea adopted a different policy, one which it has continued ever since. It maintained, as it had in 1954, that a peace treaty was a necessary formality to the achievement of security on the peninsula. In its 1974 letter to the US Congress, Pyongyang publicly invited the US to join negotiations for a peace treaty to replace the armistice. Neither the Richard Nixon (37th president) nor the Gerald Ford (38th president) administrations took any recorded action in response to this request.
Subsequently, North Korea’s then-leader Kim Il-sung (Grand father of Kim) raised the idea of a peace agreement with President Jimmy Carter (39th president) but nothing came out of it. Although the Carter policy was to reduce US troop numbers in South Korea, the Pentagon successfully opposed it. When Ronald Reagan assumed office in 1981 as 40th President, he increased US troop numbers. He was philosophically opposed to a peace treaty and embraced South Korea. His successor, George H W Bush (41st president), withdrew nuclear weapons deployed abroad; marginally reduced US troop numbers in South Korea, but did not seriously consider negotiating a peace treaty.
President Bill Clinton (42nd president), who was in office 1993-2001, came closer than any of his predecessors to achieving a resolution of the frozen Korean conflict. The Agreed Framework in 21 October, 1994 and the Joint Communique between Washington and Pyongyang in 20 October, 2000 were significant milestones. But despite almost a decade of high-level peaceful engagement, the relationship was set back by George W Bush’s (43rd president), hawkish foreign policy and his decision to include North Korea in his imagined ‘axis of evil’. By 2003, the US had not lived up to its pledge in Article 2 of the Agreed Framework to ‘move towards full normalization of political and economic relations’, so in response, North Korea withdrew from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. In 2006, Pyongyang commenced the nuclear tests that continued until last year. When the Barack Obama (44th president), administration came to office in 2009, it did not seriously engage but preferred to adopt a policy of ‘strategic patience’. But it was never going to work.
Against the backdrop of these consistent failures by Washington to deliver peace and security on the Korean Peninsula, Kim Jong-un’s strategy since coming to power in December 2011 is clear. Despite the known certainty of sanctions, he increased his country’s nuclear tests and intercontinental ballistic missile launches, but coupled them with more frequent demands for a peace treaty. Between 2012-2016, Pyongyang published at least five official statements expressly reiterating the need for the conclusion of a peace treaty.
In that long process, Trump is the biggest winner to establishing peace with North Korea following this meeting, than his previous president. The White House is likely to use the summit to frame Trump as a daring peacemaker as he heads into troublesome midterm elections.