SUM­MIT OF THE CEN­TURY: WILL THERE BE SUB­STANCE FROM THE SHOWPIECE?

Daily Mirror (Sri Lanka) - - BUSINESS NEWS - By Ameen Iz­zadeen

Com­ment­ing on the meet­ing be­tween the United States

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jongun, most an­a­lysts said they had to pinch them­selves to re­alise that what they were wit­ness­ing was real. As if he was re­spond­ing to these shocked an­a­lysts, the North Korean leader told Trump this was not any fan­tasy or science fic­tion. Such was the sig­nif­i­cance of the be­lieve-it-ornot po­lit­i­cal event on Tuesday in the Sin­ga­porean is­land of

Sen­tosa, which means peace and tran­quil­lity in Malay.

Yes, what seemed only a few months ago im­pos­si­ble has hap­pened. Just a few months ago, the two lead­ers were heap­ing in­sults on each other.

The Sin­ga­pore sum­mit is now a land­mark in post World War II his­tory, per­haps ri­valled only by US pres­i­dent Richard

Nixon’s meet­ing with Chi­nese leader Mao Ze­dong in 1972.

But wait a minute. It is too early to pro­claim that peace will dawn soon over the

Korean Penin­sula, end­ing 65 years of hos­til­ity. The path ahead is paved with many a hur­dle. But be­fore that, a lit­tle bit of his­tory:

The Korean War that be­gan on June 25, 1950 has not tech­ni­cally ended, though the par­ties to the war have been ob­serv­ing a truce since July

1953. The war ended with no clear vic­tor, but the moral vic­tory be­longed to North

Korea. It could have won the war, if the United States had not en­tered the war in sup­port of the South.

Although North Korea has been por­trayed as an evil state by the United States, which it­self is be­ing ac­cused of com­mit­ting war crimes, North Korea’s eter­nal leader

Il-sung, the grand­fa­ther of the present leader, was a vi­sion­ary. Within three years af­ter the then cold war pol­i­tics di­vided Korea along the 38th par­al­lel in 1948 into the Soviet-and-china backed North and the

Us-backed South, Kim Il-sung made North Korea a pros­per­ous state through a se­ries of so­cial­ist eco­nomic re­forms. In 1950,

North Korea in­vaded the South with the am­bi­tion of unit­ing the two Koreas and lib­er­at­ing the south­ern peas­ants.

With a se­ries of rapid gains, the North Korean troops reached Pu­san, the south­ern­most tip of Korea. The US forces, un­der the com­mand of Gen­eral Dou­glas

Macarthur, who was also over­see­ing the post-wwii oc­cu­pa­tion of Ja­pan, held off the North Kore­ans at Pu­san. Mean­while, ma­nip­u­lat­ing the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil and mis­lead­ing the Soviet del­e­ga­tion, the US worked out an in­ter­na­tional in­ter­ven­tion force to en­ter the war. This turned the tide. In three years of war, the US forces and al­lied troops al­most an­ni­hi­lated North Korea, wip­ing out 20 per­cent of its pop­u­la­tion. But the di­rect in­ter­ven­tion of China at the last stages of the war, helped work out a truce and re­store the 38th par­al­lel cease­fire line which has since been the de facto bor­der be­tween the two Koreas.

Since then, the North Kore­ans have been look­ing at the US as an en­emy, re­spon­si­ble for their mis­for­tunes.

Yet, at the sum­mit, Kim Jong-un, now be­ing hon­ourably re­ferred to as by the US Pres­i­dent as ‘Chair­man Kim’, told Trump: “It has not been easy to come to this point. For us the past has been hold­ing us back, and old prac­tices and prej­u­dices have been cov­er­ing our eyes and ears, but we have been able to over­come ev­ery­thing.”

Eas­ier said than done. If a half day’s sum­mit could cut a key from seven decades of an­i­mos­ity to open the door to peace, it will be a world won­der, though some may say a jour­ney of a thou­sand miles be­gins with a sin­gle step. True, the ice has Kim been bro­ken. But, the ques­tion is: Has the thaw­ing process be­gun?

The Sin­ga­pore sum­mit is not a kissand-make-up af­fair. Both Trump and Kim are hard nuts. The sum­mit ap­peared to be a bat­tle of wits – a bat­tle, ac­cord­ing to Trump-thrash­ing US me­dia, Kim has won. Against the back­drop of hand­shakes, pats on the backs and diplo­matic niceties, the air of mu­tual sus­pi­cion and one-up­man­ship was per­cep­ti­ble to the dis­cern­ing mind. The looks from the corner of the eyes -es­pe­cially those which Kim se­cretly and quickly cast on Trump --and the vaguely worded post-sum­mit com­mu­niqués sym­bol­ised the un­der­cur­rents. Kim has pledged to work for the de­nu­cle­ari­sa­tion of the Korean penin­sula while Trump has given se­cu­rity guar­an­tees. There was lit­tle or noth­ing con­crete and spe­cific.

The pledges con­tained in the com­mu­niqué are noth­ing new; sim­i­lar pledges were made dur­ing the six-party talks in 2005, only to be bro­ken even

be­fore the ink dried. Hours af­ter the sum­mit ended, the two sides upped the ante, giv­ing dif­fer­ent in­ter­pre­ta­tions. North

Korea on Wednesday in­ter­preted what it had agreed in Sin­ga­pore as a step-bystep de­nu­cle­ari­sa­tion process sub­ject to con­di­tions. Though, the US side took no de­ci­sion to im­me­di­ately lift the eco­nomic sanc­tions on North Korea, the sur­vival of the sum­mit’s mo­men­tum de­pends on con­ces­sions each side will make. As far as North Korea is con­cerned, lift­ing of the sanc­tions is a top pri­or­ity. Now who will make the first move?

By point­ing at last month’s dis­man­tling of the nu­clear test site fa­cil­ity, North Korea may in­sist that it has al­ready taken the first step. It may now urge the US to lift at least a few sanc­tions. But fol­low­ing a meet­ing with his South Korean and Ja­panese coun­ter­parts, the US Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo said yes­ter­day North Korea would not see any eco­nomic sanc­tions lifted un­til it had demon­strated “com­plete de­nu­cle­ari­sa­tion”.

The Pom­peo com­ments were in sharp con­trast to sen­ti­ments ex­pressed by Twit­ter-happy Trump. Upon re­turn­ing home, he tweeted, “Just landed -- a long trip, but every­body can now feel much safer than the day I took of­fice. There is no longer a Nu­clear Threat from North Korea.”

The con­tents of the tweet in­di­cate that Trump is more con­cerned about his do­mes­tic vote base than in­ter­na­tional peace. The Sin­ga­pore sum­mit has raised his stocks among his sup­port­ers. They say he has dis­played courage to do what other US pres­i­dents have shunned to do. He took a sim­i­lar hard­line po­si­tion at last week’s G7 sum­mit in Canada where he stood by his ‘Amer­ica first’ pol­icy, de­spite pres­sure from his G7 al­lies to re­lax tar­iffs and trade terms.

The Sin­ga­pore and Canada ad­ven­tures may help Trump face re­elec­tion with con­fi­dence in 2020, but his pos­tur­ing does not make him a man of peace. His Jerusalem move – shift­ing the US em­bassy to Jerusalem in breach of in­ter­na­tional law — was cer­tainly not what a peace-lov­ing leader would do.

North Korea is not naïve to give away its strate­gic weapons for a few bil­lion dol­lars or on­trump’s as­sur­ance to scrap US war games with South Korea, un­less the gains are much more than the losses. The stakes are high. North Korea gets all the re­spects be­cause of its nukes. It will con­tinue to play hard­ball with the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion. At the same time, it is des­per­ate to im­prove its econ­omy.

The Us-north Korea sum­mit can­not be seen as rap­proche­ment be­cause it comes at a time when the Us-china cold war is seen to be in­ten­si­fy­ing in the Indo-pa­cific

re­gion. With China be­ing North Korea’s only trusted ally, Py­ongyang is un­likely to move into un­char­tered wa­ters with the

US, aban­don­ing the life­line China has been of­fer­ing it.

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