WHEN MADMEN SHAKE HANDS

In prAis­ing one Another’s stAtes­mAn­ship, Kim And Trump did All despots A fAvour

Ottawa Citizen - - OPINION - TERRY GLAVIN Terry Glavin is an au­thor and jour­nal­ist.

Af­ter leav­ing no side­bar un­turned, not one promi­nent ex­pert un­ques­tioned and not a sin­gle out­landish remark un­parsed, the ef­forts of thou­sands of jour­nal­ists as­signed to chase down ev­ery con­ceiv­able an­gle to the re­al­ity tele­vi­sion spec­ta­cle in Sin­ga­pore chore­ographed by U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un this week leave only one small ques­tion unan­swered. What the hell just hap­pened? The ob­tuse and hope­lessly opaque joint state­ment Kim and Trump is­sued af­ter the event con­tains noth­ing to af­firm or con­tra­dict Trump’s ac­com­pa­ny­ing an­nounce­ment that he in­tends to call off the an­nual mil­i­tary ex­er­cises be­tween U.S. forces and the South Korean mil­i­tary and re­move the 28,500 U.S. troops de­ployed in South Korea as a se­cu­rity guar­an­tee to the demo­cratic govern­ment in Seoul, which Kim says will now be ex­tended to Pyongyang.

“Pres­i­dent Trump com­mit­ted to pro­vide se­cu­rity guar­an­tees to the DPRK,” Kim boasted in his own ac­count of the sum­mit, con­tained in his per­sonal pro­pa­ganda or­gan, the Korean Cen­tral News Agency. It wasn’t im­me­di­ately clear what that might mean ex­actly, but noth­ing the North Korean regime says about any­thing can be trusted.

For all the hype about the his­toric na­ture of the Sin­ga­pore sum­mit, we have been here be­fore, more than once.

Back in the early 1990s, when Ge­orge H.W. Bush was pres­i­dent, the Kim dy­nasty that runs North Korea like a vast fam­ily owned slave plan­ta­tion en­tered into a solemn com­mit­ment to “de­nu­cle­arize” the Korean Penin­sula. The Amer­i­cans kept their end of the bar­gain in 1993 and re­moved their tac­ti­cal nu­clear weapons from South Korea. Within the year, Pyongyang ’s supreme leader Kim Il Sung was al­ready trash­ing the nu­clear non-pro­lif­er­a­tion an­nex he’d signed.

Then his son Kim Jong Il came along and se­cured a huge trade con­ces­sion on the prom­ise that he’d sus­pend plu­to­nium pro­duc­tion, but by 2002 he was caught re­fin­ing weapons-grade ura­nium, which scotched the arrangement. North Korea bolted from the in­ter­na­tional Non-Pro­lif­er­a­tion Treaty and set off its first nu­clear test bomb in 2006. Ever since Kim Jong Il’s death in 2012, North Korea has been run by his son Kim Jong Un, who has played the same game, ex­cept up­ping the ante.

By last year, Kim Jong Un was shoot­ing mis­siles across Ja­pan into the sea and pour­ing his slave state’s lim­ited re­sources into a ca­pac­ity to strike U.S. tar­gets with nu­clear mis­siles sev­eral times more pow­er­ful than the bombs the U.S. dropped on Hiroshima and Na­gasaki in 1945.

It seems like only yes­ter­day that Trump was calling Kim a mad­man, a sick puppy, a short and fat loser and Lit­tle Rocket Man. And Kim re­sponded to Trump with sim­i­larly ado­les­cent name-calling: Gang­ster-like im­pe­ri­al­ist! Cancer-like en­tity!

Now Trump and Kim are prais­ing one another’s states­man­ship like they were old pals and, as usual, there was no short­age of what would have been spec­tac­u­larly amaz­ing stu­pidi­ties for any world leader to make, ex­cept in Trump’s case it’s all per­fectly un­ex­cep­tional. “I don’t wanna talk about it specif­i­cally, but we’ve given him, he’s go­ing to be happy,” Trump said of Kim, what­ever that might mean. “His coun­try does love him. His peo­ple, you see the fer­vour. They have a great fer­vour ... They’re gonna put it to­gether and I think they’re go­ing to end up with a very strong coun­try and a coun­try which has peo­ple ... they’re so hard work­ing, so in­dus­tri­ous. I think if you look at South Korea, some­day, maybe in the not-too-dis­tant fu­ture, it will be some­thing like that.”

Still, for all the ex­pres­sions of mu­tual ad­mi­ra­tion there is noth­ing in the post-sum­mit joint state­ment re­leased si­mul­ta­ne­ously by Wash­ing­ton and Pyongyang, de­scrib­ing an agree­ment they may or may not have reached, that goes any fur­ther than the cred­i­ble or other­wise com­mit­ments Kim has al­ready made.

In the April 27 Pan­munjom Dec­la­ra­tion — a far more de­tailed and spe­cific agree­ment with the South Korean govern­ment of Moon Jae-in — Kim had al­ready promised to carry through with a com­plete “de­nu­cle­ariza­tion” of the Korean Penin­sula. He’s made a thrilling public show of blow­ing up tun­nels where he claims his mis­siles were stored. What­ever ad­vance in the cause of nu­clear de-es­ca­la­tion Trump might want to claim, there’s noth­ing in the joint Sin­ga­pore state­ment that strength­ens com­mit­ments Kim has al­ready made in the “Six Party Talks” be­tween North Korea, the United States, Rus­sia, China, Ja­pan and South Korea.

There is ab­so­lutely noth­ing in the Trump-Kim talks that even touches on the ba­sic hu­man rights of the en­slaved North Korean peo­ple, but ab­so­lutely ev­ery­thing Rus­sia and China had hoped for — Trump’s ap­par­ent prom­ise of an Amer­i­can mil­i­tary with­drawal be­ing at the top of their wish lists, at least as some kind of ex­plic­itly ut­tered pledge, if not a for­mal cod­i­cil to the joint state­ment.

What­ever the con­tent of the Trump-Kim talks — they are re­ported to have had less than an hour of talk­ing time to­gether — the func­tion of the Sin­ga­pore sum­mit is per­haps the telling thing.

Trump ar­rived in Sin­ga­pore directly from the G7 con­clave in Que­bec, where he’d dis­graced him­self by (among other things) ar­gu­ing for a re­turn of the mass mur­derer and war crim­i­nal Vladimir Putin to the G7. In Kim, Trump sees just another strong­man whose regime he wants brought back into the wel­com­ing arms of the civ­i­lized world.

This brings us to the defin­ing fail­ure of the in­ter­na­tional epoch, the post-war “rules-based in­ter­na­tional or­der,” that Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau and Chrys­tia Free­land have been so elo­quent in de­fend­ing. When the po­lices­tate thug Xi Jin­ping shows up at Davos and every­body slob­bers on his slip­pers, that should tell you some­thing.

You can get away with any­thing, so long as you at least pre­tend to play by the rules of free trade and comply with at least the let­ter of un­der­tak­ings you’ve made to the In­ter­na­tional Mon­e­tary Fund and the World Trade Or­ga­ni­za­tion.

There are a great many dif­fer­ences be­tween North Korea and Iran, but what fun­da­men­tal moral dif­fer­ence is there be­tween wel­com­ing North Korea into the com­mu­nity of ad­vanced demo­cratic coun­tries, as Trump is ex­plic­itly propos­ing, and nor­mal­iz­ing re­la­tions with Iran, as Pres­i­dent Barack Obama squan­dered his for­eign-pol­icy le­gacy in at­tempt­ing?

There isn’t one. And that is the most no­tice­able fea­ture of “world stage” diplo­macy at this mo­ment in his­tory. You can be Kim Jong Un and the pres­i­dent of the United States will treat you like an hon­oured son en­ter­ing his fa­ther’s house.

In Kim, Trump sees just another strong­man whose regime he wants brought back into the wel­com­ing arms of the civ­i­lized world.

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