By Prarthana Mitra
Bringing a close to a year of negotiations, name-callings and rescindments, the potentially historic nuclear summit between United States president Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is scheduled to be held in Singapore on Tuesday. The first-ever meeting between the two showmen is set to be the most riveting reality show in Trump’s presidency as the secretive North Korean leader faces a US President who hates briefings and loves to deviate from his script.
The summit aims to establish “new relations” between North Korea and the United States, besides “building a permanent and durable peacekeeping mechanism on the Korean Peninsula, the issue of realizing the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and other issues of mutual concern,” the official Korean Central News Agency reported.
Here’s what happened
Both leaders reportedly arrived at the venue on Monday and held individual meetings with the Singaporean President Lee Hsien Loong, prior to the high-stakes meeting.
Hours after Kim Jong-un and his convoy reached the island state, Air Force One touched down with little fanfare to prepare for the meeting that is hoped to forge some sort of agreement on North Korea’s nuclear programme.
Thank you Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong! pic.twitter.com/8MMYGuOj8Q
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 11, 2018
Put together against all odds, defying all expectations and surmounting official cancellations, the meeting is likely to deliver the prologue to a long and drawn-out negotiation process. The groundwork for the meet already laid by Kim and Lee on Monday now awaits Trump at the Capella Singapore hotel, the venue for the scheduled summit. The US president has been trying to lower expectations, saying that just wants to “start a dialogue” with Kim, stating that it would be a process, not a quick diplomatic success.
Let’s back up a bit
This is the first time representatives of these states will meet, to discuss the potential denuclearisation and demilitarisation of the Korean province, which has assembled a formidable nuclear arsenal over the years under Kim’s administration.
Having consolidated his power in the international circuit with the nuclear program, Kim is now trying to metamorphose from a nuclear-armed tyrant into a responsible international statesman and is wooing his allies to that end.
For a nation that preferred to maintain a calculated distance from the rest of the world and is engaged in a border conflict with its southern counterpart, Kim’s steely resolve began to soften as diplomatic dialogue was launched between the US and North Korea last year, with the help of South Korea and allies like China, Phillippines, and Singapore.
After overseeing rapid advances in North Korea’s nuclear and missile technology, Kim now appears to be turning his attention to his country’s economy and has achieved considerable success in getting rid of the international sanctions that have been stifling economic development in the country. Earlier this year, he met Chinese president Xi Jinping, who has been a key figure in brokering peace between the Korean nations and the US. Beijing is already informally loosening sanctions, while Russia has called for lifting them and invited Kim to Moscow.
Nevertheless, the volatility of the two leaders ensured that this development was replete with dramatic turning points, the latest being Trump calling the summit off late last month due to North Korea’s “tremendous anger.”
What can we expect from the D-Day
“From our point of view, it’s important that the meeting take place and that the meeting sets developments on a new trajectory — one that will be conducive to the security and stability of the region,” President Lee told Washington Post.
Vivian Balakrishnan, the Singaporean foreign minister, said that during his meetings in Pyongyang and Washington he saw “sincerity” and a desire from both sides to make the summit a success although it remains to be seen if the American president gets carried away by the moment and gets played by Kim, who has proved his savvy negotiating skills in the last few months.
“I think that he’s going to surprise on the upside, very much on the upside. We’ll see,” Trump said at a news conference in Quebec on Saturday when asked about his expectations from the summit. “But this has never been done, never been tested.”
The United States has, so far, been unwilling to settle for anything less than a commitment to denuclearization, which includes the complete, verifiable and irreversible destruction of North Korea’s nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles (CVID). However, so far Kim has only agreed and taken steps to stop further nuclear tests, demanding in return, an assurance of security and a pledge to formally end the Korean War with a peace treaty.
“CVID is a pipe dream,” says Joel Wit, a former U.S. diplomat involved in past negotiations with North Korea in an interview with the Chicago Tribune. “The issue for us is, how far can we get in that direction? A freeze of nuclear and missile testing, rolling back, and dismantling is not something that happens overnight,” he added.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius.
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