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Post Assessing the Trump-Kim Singapore Summit
Created by John Eipper on 06/15/18 5:05 AM

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Assessing the Trump-Kim Singapore Summit (David Krieger, USA, 06/15/18 5:05 am)

The Singapore Summit was a dramatic turn-around from the adolescent name-calling that Trump and Kim had engaged in only months before. Trump had labelled Kim as "Little Rocket Man," and Kim had labelled Trump as "Dotard." Having gotten through this, the summit was on for June 12, then it was abruptly cancelled by Trump when Mike Pence had referred to the "Libya model" for North Korean nuclear disarmament, and a North Korean official had called Pence a "political dummy." North Korean officials were understandably sensitive to the Libya model reference. They view Gaddafi's demise as a direct result of his giving up Libya's nuclear program. Then, in the midst of the chaos, something happened behind the scenes and suddenly the summit was back on for June 12, as originally planned.

It was a summit of smiles and handshakes. Little Rocket Man and Dotard seemed very happy in each other's company. They smiled incessantly, shook hands many times and, at one point, Trump gave a thumbs up.

The most obvious result of the summit was the change in tone in the relationship of the two men. Whereas the tone had once been nasty and threatening, it was now warm and friendly. The two men appeared to genuinely like each other and be comfortable in each other's company. For both, the new warmth of their relationship seemed likely to play well with important domestic constituencies. Although the summit elicited a lot of skepticism from US pundits, the optics were those of a breakthrough in a relationship once considered dangerous and a possible trigger to a nuclear conflict. Both men viewed the summit as a major achievement.

They each committed to a rather vague Summit Statement, which said in part: "President Trump committed to provide security guarantees to the DPRK (North Korea) and Chairman Kim Jong-un reaffirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula." Trump added as an unexpected sweetener that he would put a halt to the joint US-South Korean war games, which the North Koreans had long complained were highly provocative.

Each was being promised what he most desired: security for Kim and his regime, and complete denuclearization of North Korea for Trump. They were also gaining in stature in their home countries. Prior to the summit, Trump was asked by a reporter if he thought he deserved the Nobel Peace Prize, to which he coyly responded, "Everyone thinks so, but I would never say it."

There was much, however, that didn't emerge from the Singapore summit, and it can be summarized in a single word: "details." The ultimate value of the summit will be found in the details that are agreed to and acted upon going forward. Will these details build or destroy trust? Will Kim truly believe that he can trust Trump (or a future American president) to give security to the Kim regime? Will Trump (or a future American president) truly believe that Kim is following up on denuclearizing? The answers to these questions will depend upon details that have yet to be agreed upon, including those related to inspections and verification.

While the summit has relieved tensions between the two nuclear-armed countries, nuclear dangers have not gone away on the Korean Peninsula or in the rest of the world. These dangers will remain so long as any country, including the US, continues to rely upon nuclear weapons for its national security. Such reliance encourages nuclear proliferation and will likely lead to the use of these weapons over time--by malice, madness or mistake.

We can take some time to breathe a sigh of relief that nuclear dangers have lessened on the Korean Peninsula, but then we must return to seeking the complete abolition of nuclear weapons. An important pathway to this end is support for the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, adopted by the United Nations in 2017 and now open for state signatures and deposit of ratifications.

JE comments:  David Krieger echoes nearly everyone's take on the summit:  the details are sorely lacking, but relations between NK and the US are certainly less tense than before.  WAISers know I have no love for Trump, but let me pose a Devil's Advocate question:  Should the fuzzy accord actually lead to NK's denuclearization, why not award the Nobel jointly to Kim and Trump?  (Just in case, Hell is stocking up on snowballs.)

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  • Kim-Trump Summit in Two Sentences (Henry Levin, USA 06/16/18 5:31 AM)
    We have two pieces of meaningless cardboard, one signed with Korean characters and one with the inflated signature, both pieces of cardboard from sub-humans of bad character.

    The main effect has been to celebrate the centrality on the world stage of two evil characters.

    JE comments:  Meaningless, perhaps, but actual cardboard is also harmless.  Ever notice that in diplomacy, mean leaders who play nice are admired, while nice leaders who act tough are usually mocked?

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  • Kim-Trump Summit: Will Kim Give Up His Nukes? (Istvan Simon, USA 06/17/18 5:33 AM)
    Thanks to David Krieger (June 15) for his analysis of the Singapore summit, a topic I started and had hoped would catch on.

    Like David and much of the world, I would like the de-nuclearization of the entire world, not just the Korean peninsula. But unlike David, I have been very skeptical that it can be ever achieved. In fact, I do not believe that Kim Jong Un will give up his nukes, even though he just signed his intention to do so.

    Trump wants to give security guarantees and economic aid for Kim to give up his nukes and rockets. But what are his guarantees worth, when just weeks before the summit his administration was so tone-deaf that two high officials, Pence and Bolton, mentioned the Libyan model? Clearly Kim Jong Un would be foolish to give up his nukes, for unlike Gaddafi he has actual nukes not just a nuclear program.

    The very reason why North Korea was so determined to get nukes, willing to starve its population and even defy China to get them at any cost, is our invasion of Iraq and that determination was surely reinforced by the overthrow and killing of Gaddafi. But it gets worse. The credibility of the United States is zero in the world because of Trump's irresponsible actions. He withdrew the United States from the Paris accords, he abrogated the Iran nuclear deal, he unilaterally imposed tariffs on our allies. If he treats our allies with such disdain, how can any enemies trust him? The answer is they cannot, should not, and so this entire effort is doomed to fail, never mind all the smiles, or Trump saluting a general of North Korea with whom the United States is still formally at war!

    I would like to finish this post with another important point. Let's suppose that I am wrong and that Kim Jong Un actually will destroy his nukes in spite of my skepticism. Secretary Pompeo has been harping at the word "irreversible." I claim It is meaningless and useless. Since Kim has actual nukes, even destroying them would not ever be irreversible, because he has the knowledge and technology to build new ones at any time.

    JE comments:  Who can walk us through the technology here?  Let's suppose Kim gives up his nukes and the machinery to enrich uranium.  How long then would it take him to re-boot and build a new bomb, should he desire to?  Months?  A year or more?

    A technicality:  the US and North Korea cannot still "formally" be at war, if there never was a declared war to begin with.

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