Trump-Kim sum­mit raises both hopes and con­cerns

The Korea Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Kim Jae-ky­oung kjk@ko­re­atimes.co.kr

SIN­GA­PORE — It was full of warm words but ended in vague­ness and vanity.

U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un signed an epochal pact to de­nu­cle­arize the Korean Penin­sula in Sin­ga­pore, Tues­day.

But the sum­mit, the first be­tween a sit­ting Amer­i­can pres­i­dent and a North Korean leader, pro­duced a joint state­ment with few de­tails on en­sur­ing the path to the dis­man­tle­ment of the North’s nu­clear weapons.

It has no de­tailed frame­work, time­line or short-term com­mit­ments on how Py­ongyang will take steps to­ward de­nu­cle­ariza­tion. More im­por­tantly, there are no de­tails on how to ver­ify it.

Most journalists cov­er­ing the sum­mit shared dis­ap­point­ment in the out­come.

After the joint state­ment was re­leased Tues­day af­ter­noon, frus­tra­tion was felt ev­ery­where at the in­ter­na­tional me­dia cen­ter lo­cated at the F1 Pit Build­ing on 1 Republic Boule­vard.

A few for­eign journalists sit­ting nearby came to ask how this reporter, a South Korean, felt about the re­sults and shared their views.

“Trump said Kim de­stroyed ma­jor mis­sile testing sites but with no de­tails to ver­ify it,” said Ha­jime Mi­sawa, a jour­nal­ist from Ja­pan’s Mainichi Broad­cast­ing Sys­tem.

“With­out the In­ter­na­tional Atomic En­ergy Agency’s (IAEA) pres­ence, it’s im­pos­si­ble to con­firm their ac­tions.”

One ra­dio reporter from France con­curred. “I don’t know what the point of the sum­mit was. Trump failed to get a com­mit­ment to com­plete, ver­i­fi­able and ir­re­versible de­nu­cle­ariza­tion (CVID), which the U.S. has claimed is the bot­tom line for suc­cess,” she said.

U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un stroll after their historic talks at the Capella Ho­tel on the re­sort is­land of Sen­tosa in Sin­ga­pore, Tues­day.

It was more likely a publicity stunt for the two lead­ers. They shook hands, smiled and strut­ted for the cam­eras on Sen­tosa, an is­land named after peace.

The sum­mit sparked a me­dia frenzy here. On their ar­rival in the city state, their ev­ery move made head­lines. Hordes of journalists staked out air­ports, ho­tels and places they vis­ited, scram­bling to get a glimpse of the two lead­ers.

Pres­i­dent Trump said the meet­ing was “fan­tas­tic” but the deal is clearly in fa­vor of Chair­man Kim.

He per­suaded Trump to stop joint mil­i­tary ex­er­cises with South Korea, which Trump called “war games,” with­out putting crit­i­cal words “ver­i­fi­able” and “ir­re­versible” in the joint state­ment.

Also, Kim suc­cess­fully pol­ished his im­age with the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity.

Through the sum­mit, he nor­mal­ized his im­age and put his sta­tus on par with the Amer­i­can pres­i­dent. A sur­prise city tour he took a night be­fore his meet­ing with Trump was a sup­ple­ment.

Be­hind the vague­ness of the agree­ment was the fact that nei­ther leader could af­ford to have the sum­mit fail.

Both were des­per­ate to achieve their own goals. Trump wants to win a No­bel Peace Prize and strengthen his base for re-election, while Kim seeks to claim his spot on the world stage and so­lid­ify his do­mes­tic con­trol.

Still, the Sin­ga­pore sum­mit raises both con­cerns and hopes.

On one hand, the meet­ing once again lays bare the truth about how dif­fi­cult it is for the two sides to nar- row the gap over the def­i­ni­tion of de­nu­cle­ariza­tion.

But on the other hand, the fact that the two lead­ers sat to­gether first to dis­cuss de­nu­cle­ariza­tion is a mean­ing­ful step to­ward a nu­clear-free Korean Penin­sula, a sit­u­a­tion that will def­i­nitely de­ter provoca­tive ac­tions by the North.

Let’s hope the Sin­ga­pore sum­mit will be the first step on the long road to peace.

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