The Singapore summit was a triumph for the North Korean leaderby Isabel Hilton / June 13, 2018 / Leave a comment
For a man who has declared bankruptcy for his businesses no fewer than six times, Donald Trump takes inordinate pride in his deal-making skills. He was bragging about those skills again in Singapore as he prepared for an historic sit down with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un. A few hours later, after much handholding and mutual flattery, the contents of the declaration the two men had signed were widely hailed by everyone outside Trump’s immediate circle as a victory for Kim. The bankruptcy record began to make sense.
The brief agreement is long on empty promises, however much the president blusters, and seems to contain nothing of benefit to the United States or its allies. In his post-meeting press conference Trump’s announcement that “provocative” US-South Korean military exercises would cease caught both the US military and the South Korean government by surprise. There was less surprise in Beijing, where it had been announced earlier in the day at a foreign ministry briefing.
It was, after all, the Chinese formula of double suspension—of North Korea’s nuclear tests, which North Korea had already announced, in exchange for the joint military exercises. It was first proposed by China’s foreign minister in March 2017, but rejected by Trump himself last November. North Korea’s KCNA news agency framed it as a concession by Trump to Kim’s demands, a rare occasion on which most observers would agree with North Korea’s propaganda ministry.
There is little in the document to show for the concessions, which come on top of the gift of the summit itself, complete with parity of flag display and images of Kim strolling side by side with the US president—all propaganda gold for North Korea. The inclusion in the document of the North Korean formula of “de-nuclearisation of the Korean peninsula”—first launched on 27thApril in the Panmunjom Declaration following Kim’s meeting with the South Korean President Moon—is another important US concession. The Singapore declaration has registered neither tangible advance or timetable, promising only to work towards the goal.
There are well documented precedents President Trump might have wished to study—along with the reasons for their failure. The hard-won deal with Iran, which he repeatedly rubbished and has now wrecked, was, in comparison, a monumental piece of work that covered all points necessary to make it real. He might…