Sunday Jun 10, 2018
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump arrived in Singapore Sunday for an unprecedented summit, with Pyongyang´s nuclear arsenal at the top of the agenda and the US president calling it a "one-time shot" at peace.
For this meeting of the millennium with the supreme leader of DPRK on June 12th, Donald Trump has travelled thrice the distance than his counterpart, who he once labelled as the 'Little Rocket Man'.
In the last one year, Washington has reduced its diplomatic stature by issuing unnecessarily provocative statements while Pyongyang established itself as a responsible state.
As the two leaders shake hands, at one of the most neutral places for both, burning question is who will gain out of this meeting?
It’s hard to guess what both leaders will actually discuss in private but it’s obvious that DPRK is not ready to toy with models applied to other countries. Thanks to Vice President Mike Pence and Presidential adviser John Bolton’s advocacy for the horrible ‘Libyan Model’, Trump would avoid spoiling mood of the meeting by bringing Libyan equation.
US President has himself undermined Iran deal, so the possibility of a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action type scenario will also be off the table.
Pakistan model is equally not applicable as Islamabad has out rightly rejected limiting its nuclear program for any lucrative deal.
But a semi-Pakistani model is what Kim is apparently looking for with no further tests and retaining some weapons in the name of a deterrent.
North Korea has already dismantled the Punggye-ri nuclear test site to discontinue such tests. But, such steps only reflect the intention of the supreme leader to build an imaginary nuclear-free peaceful world. So, can Trump tame the tiger or trap him to make a better deal?
Expectations are sky high but summits planned in such haste are known for their ceremonial declarations of intentions than for producing concrete instant results.
It's high time Kim and Trump announce permanent peace pact by formally ending armistice agreement, though technically such an agreement needs signing by China as well.
Washington knows at least a few crippling sanctions should also be lifted and global institutions be allowed to invest in rebuilding the neglected north. It's heartening that Trump has already promised safe future for Kim while Kim has stopped testing ballistic missiles. Hardly a summit is proved failure so how would it feel if Kim flies to New York, address upcoming UNGA and meet world leaders?
Korean Peninsula is lucky as all the signs are favoring the deal. Efforts to regime change have repeatedly failed. America has learnt that war with North Korea is impossible as China and Russia will never allow invasion and it will also put lives of more than hundred thousand Americans living in South Korea and Japan at risk.
Tactically, United States has come to the conclusion that by giving diplomacy a chance, it should see how the dice rolls. On the other hand, after spending billions of dollars on nuclear weapons and missile programs, North Korea has realized that it’s time to focus on building economy and connect with the wider world instead of remaining a satellite state that has a total annual import and export less than $15 billion.
Marshall Kim has genes from his legendary father and grandfather but his upbringing in the ultra-rich Swiss environment has also made impression on his psychology and strategy.
The next door neighbour, South Korean President Moon Jae-in is walking an extra mile to bring peace to the region. Through his dedication, Moon had miraculously turned Winter Olympics into Peace Games by inviting US and North Korean delegation and facilitating their secret meetings in PyongChang. In the last few weeks, by keeping one leg in DC and the other in Punmonjum, Moon has successfully pulled Trump and Kim back from the brink. The humble peacemaker is expected to later join both leaders for a 3-way summit to offer personal guarantees. The successful summit will help him win June13 General Elections and by polls.
Regional situation is equally ripe for a diplomatic leap as Russia is not in a position to torpedo the talks. President Putin has missed the opportunity of inviting Kim or visiting him before this summit.
Kim will only visit Russia, after proudly shaking hands with Trump. Likewise, Japan has no option but to keep mum. Japanese citizens are skeptical as none of their 13 abducted citizens are released despite repeated requests from their Prime Minister. Shinzo Abe is fighting for US tariff exemption for his country and can only watch from a distance as Trump plays his cards. Taking advantage of this scenario, US President has reduced the number of six parties involved in the affair to four only to the distaste of Japan and Russia.
The financial backbone of North Korea is trying to take full advantage of facilitating the talks. President Xi was the first to end isolation of Kim Jong-Un by inviting Kim to Beijing and called him again to fix the bolts for upcoming summit. Owing to a thousand billion dollar Belt and Road economic and security initiative across 70 countries in Asia, Africa and Europe, China can’t afford tensions in its backyard. President Xi has seen Soviet Union collapsing to its knees through free fall oil price used as a weapon so he is seeking to strengthen economy before taking any posture.
South Asians are also watching these developments. Unfortunately, our region neither has a selfless leader like Moon who can connect the warring parties nor governments and neighbours who help make a peace deal.
For now, the world must keep fingers crossed as US and DPRK finalize the joint statement of ' Senile dotard' and the Little Rocket Man'. It's also time, POTUS should be taken more seriously than ever as he fulfils another campaign promise of meeting Kim. In the same breath, Donald Trump had also promised to withdraw troops from Asia.
It's interesting that 30,000 US troops are stationed in South Korea and 50,000 in Japan. For a lasting Korean peace pact, US will have to pull out a significant number of its troops from both countries. All of them won’t go home to retire. Bells should ring to those who will have to host them in the name of security.