Hand­shake is his­toric, but words still mat­ter

USA TODAY International Edition - - NEWS - Susan Page Con­tribut­ing: Gre­gory Korte

The hand­shake was his­toric. The words? Not so much.

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump on Tues­day touted his un­prece­dented meet­ing with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as a break­through that would ease decades of ten­sions that have made the Korean Penin­sula one of the most dan­ger­ous places on Earth.

But the four-point joint state­ment the two men signed fell short of pre­vi­ous in­ter­na­tional ac­cords reached with Py­ongyang and left big ques­tions unan­swered.

“We’re pre­pared to start a new his­tory, and we’re ready to write a new chap­ter,” a re­laxed and tri­umphant Trump said at a news con­fer­ence af­ter the one­day sum­mit in Sin­ga­pore. He called the out­come a “first, bold step for a brighter fu­ture.”

“The world will see a ma­jor change,” Kim had de­clared as the two men stood side-by-side in front of a pha­lanx of U.S. and North Korean flags.

It was one more sign of how Trump is rewrit­ing long-stand­ing fun­da­men­tals of Amer­i­can for­eign pol­icy. He de­scribed Kim, a despotic ad­ver­sary, as a “tal­ented” leader who could be trusted. That came just days af­ter he blasted Cana­dian Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau, a demo­cratic ally, as “weak” and “dis­hon­est” af­ter a com­bat­ive Group of Seven eco­nomic sum­mit.

The North Kore­ans “wanted to make a deal, and mak­ing a deal is a great thing for the world,” Trump said. The pres­i­dent dis­missed the idea that the sum­mit it­self rep­re­sented a ma­jor con­ces­sion by the United States that had won lit­tle con­crete in re­turn.

For more than an hour at a widerang­ing news con­fer­ence, Trump basked in what he por­trayed as a le­gacy- mak­ing achieve­ment. He fielded ques­tions from re­porters from the United States, China, Ja­pan, South Korea and else­where, jok­ing with some about fa­vor­able or un­fa­vor­able sto­ries they had writ­ten about him in the past.

While there was skep­ti­cism about whether Trump could pro­vide ev­i­dence of sub­stan­tive progress, there was lit­tle doubt Kim got what he wanted: a meet­ing with a sit­ting U.S. pres­i­dent, a prize that eluded his fa­ther and grand­fa­ther. The two men stood as equals on stage, and Trump said he was “hon­ored” to be there. With that picture alone, Kim bol­stered the global le­git­i­macy of what had been seen as a pariah state.

In­deed, Trump said he would in­vite Kim “at the ap­pro­pri­ate time” to visit the White House.

For now, Trump said tough sanc­tions on North Korea would re­main in place un­til the de­nu­cle­ariza­tion process was well un­der­way. But he said the United States would stop the joint mil­i­tary ex­er­cises with South Korea that North Korea has long protested as provoca­tive.

In the ac­cord, Kim reaf­firmed the com­mit­ment he made in the Pan­munjom Dec­la­ra­tion with South Korea in April “to work to­ward com­plete de­nu­cle­ariza­tion of the Korean Penin­sula.” That prom­ise was less far-reach­ing and less spe­cific than the agree­ment North Korea signed at the so-called six-party talks in 2005. Then, Py­ongyang promised to aban­don all nu­clear weapons, to re­turn to the Non-Pro­lif­er­a­tion Treaty and to sub­mit to in­ter­na­tional in­spec­tions.

“Hand­shakes mat­ter,” said David Reynolds, a Cam­bridge his­to­rian and au­thor of “Sum­mits: Six Meet­ings That Shaped the Twen­ti­eth Cen­tury.” “A hand­shake mat­ters, and that hand­shake be­tween Kim and Trump mat­ters as a sym­bolic thing. But there is a sub­stan­tive side of sum­mitry that takes weeks to work through be­fore we know if this is a break­through or not.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.