President Trump and North Korean Leader Kim Jong-Un met for a momentous summit in Singapore yesterday. It was the first ever meeting between a sitting U.S. president and a leader of the isolated nation. The goal, President Trump said, was to get the country to commit to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
A byproduct of the summit, unstated but no less significant, would be a formal end to the Korean War, a conflict that dates back to the middle of last century.
“I want to thank Chairman Kim for taking the first bold step toward a bright new future for his people. Our unprecedented meeting — the first between an American President and a leader of North Korea — proves that real change is indeed possible,” President Trump said at a press conference at the summit’s conclusion.
“My meeting with Chairman Kim was honest, direct, and productive. We got to know each other well in a very confined period of time…We’re prepared to start a new history and we’re ready to write a new chapter between our nations.”
The President and Kim signed a joint statement at the end of their meetings that reaffirmed both countries’ commitment to ridding the Korean Peninsula of nuclear weapons as well as the establishing of diplomatic relations between the nations.
“President Donald J. Trump of the United States of America and Chairman Kim Jong Un of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea have committed to cooperate for the development of new U.S.–DPRK relations and for the promotion of peace, prosperity, and security of the Korean Peninsula and of the world,” the statement read.
The statement also pledged North Korea to work with the U.S. in recovering POW/MIA remains from the conflict and the repatriation of those remains that have already been identified.
The event was marked by remarkable political stagecraft with the two leaders first appearing together in front of a backdrop of interspersed American and North Korean flags.
The two men then participated in a series of both one-on-one meetings, with only translators present, and expanded meetings that included top staff. The summit was punctuated by a press conference held by President Trump. Kim did not participate in the press availability.
The surreal get-together and the amiability that was put on display was a far cry from the heated rhetoric that took place just months ago between the two leaders in which each threatened the other with nuclear war.
Kim began this year with a call for the “melting” of frozen relations between North and South Korea in 2018. Diplomacy accelerated rapidly after that when the North agreed to send a delegation to the 2018 Winter Olympic Games held in Seoul in February, and a historic meeting between Kim Jong-Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in in the demilitarized zone along the border between the two nations took place in April.
The month before, the South Korean national security chief Chung Eui-yong visited the White House after meeting with Kim Jong-un in Pyongyang and relayed the message of Kim’s desire to halt his country’s nuclear program and meet with U.S. President Donald Trump face-to-face to discuss the permanent denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
President Trump accepted the invitation.
The statement signed by the two leaders in the wake of the meeting this week was light on detail regarding timetables and verification, something the President alluded to in his post-summit comments.
“Today is the beginning of an arduous process. Our eyes are wide open, but peace is always worth the effort, especially in this case. This should have been done years ago. This should have been resolved a long time ago, but we’re resolving it now,” he said.
“The ultimate objective we seek from diplomacy with North Korea has not changed. The complete and verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is the only outcome that the United States will accept,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a press conference in Singapore the day before the President’s summit.
“Sanctions will remain until North Korea completely and verifiably eliminates its weapons of mass destruction programs. If diplomacy does not move in the right direction — and we are hopeful that it will continue to do so — those measures will increase.”
When asked whether the removal of U.S. troops stationed in South Korea would be a pre-requisite for the North’s denuclearizing, Secretary Pompeo again alluded to the specifics that need to be worked out and said the talks will continue.
“You should…know there’s going to be a lot of work left to do. There’s a lot of detail that’s got to be provided. We are not going to conduct these negotiations in the open with the media; we’re going to conduct them between the two parties so that we have an opportunity to have a real success here,” Pompeo told reporters.
The U.S. has nearly 24,000 troops stationed permanently in South Korea.
Hostilities in the Korean War ended in 1953 with a cease-fire between the nations but an official peace treaty was never signed. The signing of one now will likely prove tricky as several large sticking points remain, specifically the likely demand from North Korea and China, that American troops leave the South.
“Nearly 70 years ago…an extremely bloody conflict ravaged the Korean Peninsula. Countless people died in the conflict, including tens of thousands of brave Americans. Yet, while the armistice was agreed to, the war never ended…But now we can all have hope that it will soon end. And it will…soon end,” the President said.
The summit was a noteworthy feat for the Trump administration and if the stated goals of North Korean denuclearization and the reinitiation of the rogue regime into the international community emerge as results it will prove to be one of the more impactful feats in U.S. presidential history.
“President Trump should win the Nobel Peace Prize,” President Moon told a meeting of senior South Korean officials during a meeting at the Blue House, South Korea’s version of the White House, last month. “What we need is only peace.”
Photo by Dan Scavino Jr. via Wikimedia Commons