By J.V. Lakshmana Rao
The US-N. Korean summit, which eluded three Presidents of the US – Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama – has been accomplished by President Ronald Trump. Now the Korean Peninsula peace is in sight, though much has yet to be done by Ronald Trump and North Korean Chairman Kim Jong UN.
The summit between the two leaders in Singapore on June 12 is only a good beginning ofthe Korean Peninsula peace effort. Trump seems to be a satisfied person at the outcome of the summit, as he has heaped praises on Kim. Trump has every reason to feel elated at his achievement that what his predecessors have not been able to accomplish.
Trump has committed to providing unspecific “security guarantees” to North Korea, and Kim has reaffirmed his “unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization.”They say they would “join their efforts” to establish “a lasting and stable peace regime” on the Korean Peninsula.
The historic summit has been the culmination of three months of hard work on both sides by heads and their aides, though at one time Trump, reacting to Kim’s harsh criticism, had threatened to call it off. It was the “humility and understanding” of Kim that Trump had revised his decision and from then on there was no stopping of the preparations for the summit. Even during the preparatory teams’ meetings on both the sides, there cropped up some apprehensions but the ultimate goal to hold the summit has been achieved by the two leaders on a give-and-take reciprocal attitude. Unlike other US Presidents, Trump seems to have shown some magnanimity and grace. That does not mean that he has been too lenient towards Kim.
The whole world watched with curious anxiety the outcome of the 45-minute one-on-one meeting between the two leaders. There was an indication of their cordiality when they both emerged from the meeting room and waved to the people, including journalists waiting outside and the people watching proceedings on television networks the world over. It took a few more hours to release their signed joint statement that showed that there were no irritants to believe that the meeting was not smooth.
There is a major task now before both Kim and Trump for achieving the Korean peninsula peace. Kim has to dismantle all the nuclear-related structures and defuse the nuclear arms, disable the missiles and dispose of stockpile of fissile material with a verifiable process for the US inspectors. Though even before the summit has begun, Kim had claimed that the work towards it had already begun, and as if to prove it, he released pictures of dismantlingoperations, though such operations had not been opened for journalists and officials.
Trump has estimated that to complete that the task of denuclearization, Kim may needat least six months, though it may take even longer time than that. Trump also made it a condition that till the accomplishment of it and verification of it by the US inspectors, the economic sanctions of the US on North Korea will continue.
The joint declaration has beenvery sketchy, not very clear about the operations, and it has not set any deadlines for achieving the objectives. But a major surprise concession that Trump announced to Kim’s request, has been that he would order suspension of US joint defense exercises in the region.Trumpwould maintain economic sanctions against North Korea, but he would stop the “war games” along with South Korea, as negotiations would continue with the North Korea.
This offer of suspension of joint defense exercises bythe US may not please South Korea and Japan, though no mention seems to have been made by Trump about the withdrawal of US forces. That means the US forces will still be there on their alert in the region and that should please South Korea and Japan. North Korea’s human rights issue has also not come up in the Trump-Kim talks as there was no mention about it in the joint declaration.
To make the Trump-Kim agreement firm and concrete, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reached Seoul on June 13 for talks with South Korean officials. He is also scheduled to visit Japan, followed by a trip to China. Pompeo’s agenda, includes talks with the officials of South Korea, Japan and China aimed at the US decision to suspend the defense exercises; refining of the schedules for denuclearization; and possible relief of future sanctions.
In Seoul, Pompeo, who met with South Korean President Moon Joe-in, expects the US to achieve “major disarmament” of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal during Trump’s present term in office, but if the talks stall, the US would resume joint military exercise with South Korea. Contrary to Trump’s expectation of six months, Pompeo has been practical in his guess that the “total disarmament” would take at least two years and six months.
In anticipation of the arrival of Pompeo, and to know more about the Trump-Kim summit, China wants to play a key role in North Korea’s future, seeking to be a part of any peace treaty, weapons inspection and economic assistance as a beneficiary of the summit.
Anyway with the successful holding of the summit, which did not happen earlier, is a good beginningof an effort towards achieving the Korean peninsula peace. Trump and Kim, who exchanged insults and threats and by hurling diatribes of worst type a year ago,have turned out to be bosom friends now.
By J.V. Lakshmana Rao