Joint military drills in question
SINGAPORE — Global analysts have criticized U.S. President Donald Trump for his plan to halt joint military exercises with South Korea, which he announced Tuesday at a press conference following his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
They believe Trump gave too many concessions to Kim without receiving pledges over how and when to dismantle the North’s nuclear weapons.
“Trump’s agreement to end military exercises is a significant concession on the part of the U.S., but we will have to see if there are concrete measures taking place on North Korea’s part,” Troy Stangarone, a Washington-based expert on the Korean Peninsula, told The Korea Times.
“The agreement to end military exercises will have implications for the U.S. and South Korea’s ability to deter North Korea and defend against attack.”
Sean King, senior vice president of Park Strategies, echoed his view, saying, “Trump calls our war games provocative. An unbelievably inappropriate comment.”
“Plus, Kim got us to say complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, which is North Korean code for South Korea’s removal from the U.S. nuclear umbrella.”
He thinks the summit brought no progress, saying most points in the Trump-Kim agreement mirror points from the 2005 joint statement.
“I’m glad there’s no mention of U.S. troop withdrawals but we should only establish relations with the North if the North recognizes the South,” he said.
“After all, we only recognized East Germany in 1972 after the two Germanys recognized each other the same year.”
Most analysts have shown disappointment at the outcome of the summit, describing it as a deal with few details.
Douglas Webber, a professor of political science at INSEAD, said the agreement was a statement or declaration of intent, devoid of any details.
“It is at best the beginning of a (long-term) negotiation process, not the end. For the summit to prove to be very meaningful, it will need to be followed up by further negotiations and substantive agreements,” he said.
“The sequencing of mutual concessions and the verification of any steps North Korea agrees to take toward denuclearization will be crucial.”
Stephan Haggard, the director of the Korea-Pacific Program at the UC San Diego School of Global Policy and Strategy, agreed.
“It’s hard to escape the conclusion that this was a weak summit outcome. It is possible that more was agreed than we have seen but there is little to support the conclusion that the U.S. and its allies got much from the summit,” he said.
“The declaration is extremely vague, with no overarching framework, timeline or short-term commitments, beyond the surprising commitment of the president to suspend the fall joint military exercises.”
James Bindenagel, the Henry Kissinger Professor for Governance and International Security at Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms University in Bonn, Germany, described the pact as “a good step,” but said the parties should have outlined how they plan to get there.
“This is a baby step toward denuclearization, but there is no strategy outlined for the process. Uncertainty will continue,” he said.
“Kim won Trump’s recognition without giving up his nuclear weapons, which is a significant concession by Trump.” Noting that the two of them have endorsed the Pan- munjeom Declaration, he said, “President Moon has the backing of the U.S. to talk with North Korea on peace on the peninsula.”
Haggard stressed it is worthwhile focusing on Kim’s reaffirmation of the Panmunjeom Declaration.
“It only commits Kim Jong-un to working toward denuclearization, a lengthy process, and doing so in the context of the favored North Korean formulation of denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” he said.
Regarding the statement on exercises, he said, “It is classic Trump, as his own USFK commander did not appear to know about the concession and South Korea does not appear to have been consulted in advance.”
Bindenagel said recovering the remains of the war dead is important to tell the story of the North’s 1950 invasion of South Korea that resulted in the United Nations declaring war.
“The U.S. and its allies fought as the U.N. Command to the stalemate of 1953.” Remembrance of the facts of that war is a grim reminder of the history of North Korea that needs to be overcome.