Will Trump-Kim summit succeed in achieving Korean peace?


By J.V. Lakshmana Rao

An end to over six decades of conflict and reaching a détente between North Korea and South Korea seem to be nowin sightfollowing a series of meetings among concernedcountries that had taken place in the past two months. If all goes well, all indications now point out towards a much-anticipated summit meeting between the Chairman of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea, Kim Jong Un,and the President of the United States of America, Donald J. Trump,in June.Obviously the avowed objective of the summit is to tame North Korea to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula, end the tension between the North and South Koreas and bring peace to the region.

If such a historic summit takes place, Mr. Trump will be the first sitting US President ever to meet a North Korean leader after the onset of the Korean War.  There were vain attempts in the past by former US Presidents like Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama to meet North Korean leaders to defuse the nuclear stand-off and bring peace in the region.

It is too early to predict who others thanMr. Trump and Mr. Kim would participate in the summit, but naturally Mr. Moon Joe-in, South Korean President, will be a party in the talks and decisions. The others, who are likely participants, are chiefly the Chinese President, Mr. Xi Jinping, and the Japanese Prime Minister, Mr. Shino Abe.

The venue for the proposed mid-June summit can either be Demilitarization Zone (DMZ) of Koreas or Singapore.

The two Koreas fought a fierce war beginning1950 and reaching its de facto end in 1953,butrelations soured and a cold war-like tension between the two countries still continues.  North Korea, which is considered to be a rogue country, is being isolated for its pursuing nuclear weapon and missile program,suffers world sanctions. However, China alone is the North Korea’s ally, and also China is the only North Korea’s biggest trade partner. Anticipating a summit with Mr. Trump, the 33-year-old North Korean leader, during his first visit outside the country, met in Beijinghis only confidante Chinese PresidentXi Jinping for guidanceon March 28. References regardingthe proposed Korean summit also figured prominently when the Japanese Prime Ministermet Mr. Trump in Washingtonon April 17-18, when the US President allayed Japan’s fears of being ignored over the North Korean issue. But China insists that Beijingshould be given a prominent role in the summit talks.

All these developments and meetings culminated into a summit-like meeting on April 27 between sworn-rivals-now-turned-friends Mr. Kim andMr. Moon in Panmunjom, the “truce village” of the Demilitarized Zone in Paju, where an armistice was signed in 1953 ending the war.

It is interesting to note that  Mr. Kim, who threatened in 2016 to bomb with a missile the palace of Mr. Moon, now said that he and Mr. Moon would deal issues “frankly, seriously andhonestly.”

In their joint declaration at the end of the historic meeting, they said that South Korea and North Korea shared the view that measures being initiated by North Korea are meaningful and crucial for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and agreed to carry out their respective roles and responsibilities in this regard. They also agreed to actively seek the support and cooperation of international community for the vowed commitment.

South Korea and North Korea agreed to actively pursue trilateral meetings involving the two Koreas and the US, or quadrilateral meetings involving the two Koreas, the US and China with a view to declaring an end to the war, turning the armistice into a peace treaty, and establishing a solid and permanent peace region. However, no mention was made about inviting Japan to participate in the summit.

Mr. Moon said that his country would not have any objections for continuing the presence of US troops in his country and expressed his view that Mr. Trump deserves a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts for a détente between South and North Koreas with an aim to establish peace in the region.

Mr. Kim also indicated that the process of denuclearization would begin in June and the process would take two years to complete.  The locations would be opened for inspection by inspectors of the US and other countries.

He also announced that North Korea would be willing to release the detainees of the US.  However, he did not indicate details of modalities.

The first indication of Mr. Trump’s willingness to meet Mr. Kim came to light when Mr. Trump interrupted a visiting trio of top South Korean officials in the Oval Office in Washington, DC, on March 8, as they analyzed an offer from the North Korean Chairman for possible diplomatic options. Mr. Trump’s offer of willingness to meet Mr. Kim for a summit-level talks was spontaneous,though such acceptance normally follows only several protocols and diplomaticmeetings.

Following Mr. Trump’s willingness, White House aides, officials of the State Department, intelligence officers and others began working in the right earnest towards a tangible summit between Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim.  Because of the past experience, one of the strong points all these officials aimed to study has been the seriousness of the North Korea abiding by its commitment to pave the way for the summit.

Now it is a matter of time how successful all the concerned nations work facilitating the summit and how well Mr. Trump handles it, as he indicated that he would walk out of the summit, if Mr. Kim would not properly cooperate towards denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.