The North Korea-United States Summit on the 12th June 2018, called the Trump-Kim summit by many, has just ended this week, with plenty of wins and losses on both sides of the board. Although notably, it was a much more peaceful outcome than previous talks, many are saying that the US allowed North Korea to get away with too much.

There were also many concerns that were not addressed or brought to the table in this talk–the plight of North Korean people, the labour camps, and the starvation crisis occurring right now in North Korea.

Optimists claimed that this was to avoid ruining the peace (pardon the pun) of the talks, and that Trump was taking a softer stance to pave the way for future concessions.

Skeptics are claiming intentional negligence of these issues in order to claim a mostly shallow and PR-related victory.

Which was it? Only the future can tell.

Going in – Expectations

The US Side

The single aim of USA going into the summit was to get North Korea to commit to complete, verifiable, irreversible disarmament (CVID). Simply put: denuclearisation.

As the country had previously both agreed and reneged upon six times prior.

Specifically at the…

  1. Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons (December 12, 1985)
  2. Joint Declaration of the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula (January 20, 1992)
  3. Agreed Framework (October 21, 1994)
  4. Six-Party Talks (September 19, 2005)
  5. Six-Party Talks [Again] (October 3, 2007)
  6. US Agreement (February 29, 2012)

The precedence didn’t bode well for the outcome of the talks. Particularly when the taking into context the circumstances behind each agreement.

According to Mieke Eoyang, a national security analyst for center-left think tank Third Way, “Usually they suffer some kind of internal crisis, and then start acting in a really threatening way to try to get people to give them stuff.”

North Korea Side

On April 11, North Korea presented five entreaties as conditions for the dismissal of their nuclear-capable ICBMs:

  1. Ensuring the United States and South Korea do not locate nuclear weapons strategic assets within the vicinity of the Korean Peninsula
  2. Ceasing development or operation of strategic nuclear assets during USFK–ROK combined military training
  3. Ensuring the United States will not attack North Korea with conventional or nuclear weapons
  4. Converting the 1953 Korean Armistice Agreement into a peace treaty on the Korean Peninsula
  5. Establishing official diplomatic ties between North Korea and the United States.

These were the official requests from North Korea’s side, however there was indication that Kim Jung Un was also looking for sanction reliefs in order to aid the country’s economy.

As Trump’s election campaign was all about taking the hard line against opponents, and pre-summit communication had been a series of insults and refusals (Trump had even sent a formal request to North Korea to call off the talks!), expectations were low on the two of them even meeting.

The confirmation of the summit itself came as a shock to many parties, which was taken as a cautious sign of hope.

Singapore’s Side

You would think that the bankroller of half the budget for the summit would have a more optimistic approach towards “achieving world peace”, however despite the positive spin from the government, many were skeptical.

In fact, many disparaged the government’s willingness to fork out such a hefty sum (SGD 20 million) despite already being one of the world’s most expensive cities.

However, there was no hiding the fact that Singapore stood to gain quite a bit of reputation from being the host to this summit, having friendly ties with both the US and North Korea, an achievement that few countries have achieved. It didn’t hurt that it was a potential PR and marketing coup.

In fact, many companies had already started cashing in on the Trump-Kim summit fever by selling memorabilia and other themed merchandise.

During – Discussions, Decisions and Fine Dining

One-on-one meeting

The summit kicked off at 9:05am local time with a handshake for the press and a one-on-one meeting between the two nation leaders. Trump came out of the meeting describing it as “very, very good”.

(Unfortunately, he doesn’t take notes for verification, because “I don’t have to verify because I have one of the great memories of all time”.)

Expanded Bilateral meeting

In exchange for Pyongyang dismantling its nuclear programme, Washington pledged to stop joint military exercises with Seoul.

Both delegations partook in a working lunch with Korean, Southeast Asian and Western dishes and ice cream, tropézienne, and dark chocolate tartlet ganache as dessert.

Joint Signing Ceremony

The joint statement was titled the “Joint Statement of President Donald J. Trump of the United States of America and Chairman Kim Jong Un of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea at the Singapore Summit”, which Trump described as a “very important” and “comprehensive” agreement.

The document states…

President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un state the following:

  1. The United States and the DPRK commit to establish new U.S.-DPRK relations in accordance with the desire of the peoples of the two countries for peace and prosperity.
  2. The United States and the DPRK will join their efforts to build a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.
  3. Reaffirming the April 27, 2018 Panmunjom Declaration, the DPRK commits to work towards the 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.

The Aftermath

Many suggested that North Korea had come out better off from the meeting, having secured a suspension of joint US-South Korea military exercises in exchange for what was considered a vague denuclearisation agreement with no specific timeline.

However, Trump dismissed these claims, adding later that the two sides had already set up a follow-up meeting between officials.

He also noted that complete denuclearisation would take time and sanctions would not be lifted until it happens.

“The sanctions will come off when we are sure the nukes are no longer a factor.”

Conclusion

While nothing substantial was promised in this meeting, the fact that the leaders of both USA and North Korea had met and gone through talks peacefully might just be a sign of hope. It may not be impossible that better relations are now within sight, and further talks and agreements could eventually lead to a peaceful and denuclearised outcome.

Then again, North Korea could always renege a 7th time.

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