WILL KIM JONG-UN KEEP HIS WORD?
by Sharon Rondeau
No U.S. president has ever met with or spoken on the phone with a North Korean head of state since the country was formed following the cessation of hostilities in Korea in 1953. For decades, North Korea has been developing a nuclear-weapons arsenal the results of which threatened the prospect of war less than one year ago.
The Korean War never reached a peace agreement, but rather, only an armistice and the construction of the demilitarized zone (DMZ) separating what became North Korea from South Korea. While the North has remained a communist, hermit nation without enough food to feed its population, the South has prospered under the free-market model and democratic elections.
In exchange for North Korea’s pledged complete disarmament, the U.S. will offer “security guarantees.”
Trump and Kim first met face-to-face for a photo-op shortly after 9:00 p.m. EDT on Monday during which they shook hands and turned toward the cameras for several moments. They then took part in approximately 50 minutes of one-on-one dialogue in a library at the , with only two translators in the room.
At approximately 10:00 AM in Singapore/10:00 PM on the East Coast, Kim and Trump emerged from their private meeting, walked along a colonnade, and attended an open diplomatic session to include staffs from both the United States and North Korea. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly were in attendance, seated to Trump’s left and right, respectively.
Following the meeting and a working lunch, Trump and Kim offered brief comments before signing an agreement which Kim said would show the world “a major change.”
While the signing proceeded, reporters directed questions to Trump, although he did not respond to all of them. However, he did say that he would hypothetically invite Kim to the White House after a reporter asked the question.
A video of the signing and the agreement’s full text are here.
After both signed, Trump said that “We’re very proud of what took place today” and predicted that change would come to the Korean peninsula. “People are going to be very impressed; people are going to be very happy…” Trump said of what he expects the results of the agreement to be.
Of his talk with Kim, Trump said that it went better than he anticipated. Less than one year ago, North Korea was threatening its geographic neighbors, the West, and the U.S., specifically the island of Guam.
Later on Tuesday, Trump gave a press conference during which he announced the agreed-to framework by both leaders in which he said Kim “reaffirms his unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. We also agreed to vigorous negotiations to implement the agreement as soon as possible, and he wants to do that. This isn’t the past.”
North Korea’s denuclearlization must be completely verifiable by third parties, the U.S. has stipulated.
During his remarks, Trump gave tribute to the late Otto Warmbier and his parents. Warmbier, a University of Virginia student, had traveled to North Korea in late 2015 with a tour group and was arrested as he was preparing to leave the country for allegedly taking a propaganda poster from the hotel. Warmbier was then held, provided a one-hour trial by the North Korean regime, and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in a prison camp for his alleged crime.
On June 13, 2017, following behind-the-scenes work by the US State Department, Warmbier was returned to his family in Ohio incapacitated and believed to be in a coma from which he never emerged. Six days later, Otto Warmbier passed away at the age of 22.
In response to an NBC reporter‘s question referring to Warmbier’s death resulting from the repressive regime, Trump said, “I think without Otto, this would not have happened. Something happened from that day; it was a terrible thing; it was brutal, but a lot of people started to focus on what was going on, including North Korea. I really think that Otto is someone who did not die in vain.”
Some mainstream outlets pointed out that “details” about how the agreement would be enacted were few, although future meetings are said to be in the planning stages. NBC compared the Singapore summit to the “acrimonious” G7 meeting Trump left on Saturday for Singapore.
The media has not expressed similar concern for the peoples of Cuba and China, who also live under repressive communist regimes.