Trump, Kim hail his­toric sum­mit

The Phnom Penh Post - - FRONT PAGE - An­drew Beatty and Se­bastien Berger

DON­ALD Trump and Kim Jong-un hailed their his­toric sum­mit on Tues­day as a break­through in re­la­tions be­tween Cold War foes, but the agree­ment they pro­duced con­tained few de­tails about the key is­sue of Py­ongyang’s nu­clear weapons.

The ex­tra­or­di­nary and un­prece­dented en­counter in Sin­ga­pore saw the leader of the world’s most pow­er­ful democ­racy shake hands with the third gen­er­a­tion scion of a dy­nas­tic dic­ta­tor­ship, stand­ing as equals in front of their na­tions’ flags.

Kim agreed to the “com­plete de­nu­cle­ari­sa­tion of the Korean Penin­sula”, a phrase favoured by Py­ongyang that stopped short of long-stand­ing US de­mands for North Korea to give up its atomic ar­se­nal in a “ver­i­fi­able” and “ir­re­versible” way.

And in a block­bust­ing press con­fer­ence af­ter the sum­mit, Trump said the US would halt mil­i­tary ex­er­cises with Seoul – some­thing long sought by Py­ongyang, which claims the drills are a re­hearsal for in­va­sion.

With Py­ongyang hav­ing de­clared a mora­to­rium on weapons test­ing on the grounds its de­vel­op­ment pro­grams were com­plete, the move looked like a tacit ac­cep­tance of the “freeze for freeze” pro­posal pushed by Bei­jing and pre­vi­ously de­cried by Washington.

The US sta­tions around 30,000 troops in se­cu­rity ally

South Korea to pro­tect it from its neigh­bour, which in­vaded in 1950 in an at­tempt to re­unify the penin­sula.

“We will be stop­ping the war games which will save us a tremen­dous amount of money,” Trump told re­porters, adding that “at some point” he wanted to with­draw US troops from the South.

Both Seoul and US mil­i­tary com­man­ders in the South in­di­cated they had no idea the an­nounce­ment was com­ing, and an­a­lysts ex­pressed im­me­di­ate con­cern.

End­ing the drills “is in ex­cess of all ex­pert con­sen­sus, South Korean re­quests, and even a close read­ing of North Korean de­mands”, said Adam Mount of the Fed­er­a­tion of Amer­i­can Sci­en­tists.

All smiles

The Sin­ga­pore sum­mit was a po­ten­tially le­gacy-defin­ing meet­ing for both men – com­pa­ra­ble to pres­i­dent Richard Nixon’s 1972 visit to China, or Ron­ald Rea­gan’s 1986 sum­mit with Mikhail Gor­bachev in Reyk­javik.

But many agree­ments have been made in the past with North Korea that have later fallen apart, and ahead of the meet­ing, crit­ics ex­pressed con­cerns that it risked be­ing more about head­lines than sub­stan­tive progress.

It also le­git­imised Kim, whose regime stands ac­cused of wide­spread hu­man rights abuses, crit­ics charged.

In the event, the two lead­ers show­ered each other with com­pli­ments in the sump­tu­ous set­ting of a luxury Sin­ga­pore ho­tel, a marked con­trast from their pre­vi­ous rounds of mu­tual in­sults, such as “men­tally de­ranged” and “lit­tle rocket man”.

Trump said he had formed a “spe­cial bond” with the “very tal­ented” Kim, who is sus­pected of or­der­ing the as­sas­si­na­tion of his brother at a Malaysian air­port last year.

Af­ter a day filled with smiles and hand­shakes, the US “com­mit­ted to pro­vide se­cu­rity guar­an­tees” to North Korea, while Py­ongyang com­mit­ted to “work to­wards” de­nu­cle­aris­ing the Korean Penin­sula.

Melissa Han­ham of the US-based Cen­ter for Non­pro­lif­er­a­tion Stud­ies said on Twit­ter that North Korea had “al­ready promised to do this many times,” adding the two sides “still don’t agree on what ‘de­nu­cle­ari­sa­tion’ means”.

Asked about the is­sue – the crux of the sum­mit – Trump said “we’re start­ing that process” which would be­gin “very, very quickly”, but gave no de­tails.

US sanc­tions would re­main in place un­til Washington had seen progress, he added, be­fore fly­ing out of Sin­ga­pore bound for the US ter­ri­tory of Guam – to­wards which Py­ongyang had last year threat­ened to lob mis­siles.

“We’ll meet again,” Trump said af­ter the sign­ing cer­e­mony, stand­ing with Kim on the ve­ran­dah where they first met. “We will meet many times.” He “ab­so­lutely” would be will­ing to in­vite Kim to the White House, and would do so when the time was right, he added.

For his part, Kim – who made head­lines the evening be­fore the sum­mit with an night­time visit to ma­jor tourist sites – said the two Cold War foes had vowed to “leave the past be­hind”, pledg­ing “the world will see ma­jor change”.

Abra­ham Den­mark of the Wilson Cen­ter in Washington tweeted: “It seems Kim got a huge pro­pa­ganda win and a met­ric ton of le­git­i­macy, and the US gave up joint ex­er­cises, for lit­tle new and noth­ing in re­turn.”

But he added: “The sil­ver lin­ing is that di­a­logue will con­tinue, and where there is diplo­macy there is hope.”

The Euro­pean Union on Tues­day praised the sum­mit as a “cru­cial and nec­es­sary step”, in­di­cat­ing de­nu­cle­ari­sa­tion of penin­sula could be achieved.

“This sum­mit was a cru­cial and nec­es­sary step to build upon the pos­i­tive de­vel­op­ments achieved in in­ter-Korean re­la­tions and on the penin­sula so far,” the EU’s diplo­matic chief Fed­er­ica Mogherini said in a state­ment.

Mogherini stressed that the aim of the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity re­mained “the com­plete, ver­i­fi­able and ir­re­versible de­nu­cle­ari­sa­tion of the Korean Penin­sula” – a long­stand­ing for­mu­la­tion that im­plies Py­ongyang al­low­ing in­spec­tions and not re­build­ing any weapons it gives up.

“The joint state­ment signed by the US and DPRK lead­ers to­day gives a clear sig­nal that this goal can be achieved,” she said.

SAUL LOEB/AFP

US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump (right) ges­tures as he meets with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un at the start of their US-North Korea sum­mit, at the Capella Ho­tel on Sen­tosa is­land in Sin­ga­pore, on Tues­day.

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