The world held its breath in anticipation of the Singapore summit, which would bring the most unexpected of alliances to the table: Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un. This long awaited and historic meeting focused on reaching a nuclear disarmament deal between North Korea and the United States of America.
The question of denuclearization has been at the forefront of Trump’s presidency as an issue he’s addressed in a series of tweets calling Kim Jong Un “little rocket man,” and threatening all out nuclear war.
North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons dates back to the Korean War, in light of then President Truman’s active consideration of employing measures such atomic bombs in the conflict at the time. North Korea’s allyship with the Soviet Union strengthened their access to nuclear arms only to lose them after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Since then, they have gone through a series of uncertain talks and negotiations with the United States of America regarding the development of their nuclear program and their murky intentions.
The question of denuclearization has been at the forefront of Trump’s presidency as an issue he’s addressed in a series of tweets calling Kim Jong Un “little rocket man,” and threatening all out nuclear war. tweet
In 2017, a war of words erupted between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un. Following North Korea’s most powerful nuclear testing in early September, the remarks of Donald Trump to the 72nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly stirred up controversy. In his statement, Donald Trump stated, “The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea…. It is time for North Korea to realize that the denuclearization is its only acceptable future…It is time for all nations to work together to isolate the Kim regime until it ceases its hostile behavior.”
In response, Kim Jung Un brushed off Trump’s hostile rhetoric as “unprecedented rude nonsense.” Kim Jung Un also likened Trump to a dog that when frightened only barks louder.
This antagonistic exchange made prospects of dialogue highly unlikely; however North Korea’s willingness to work towards denuclearization alongside South Korea tipped the scales. After this joint declaration, South Korea effectively functioned as a middleman between the United States and North Korea, and eventually succeeded in channeling North Korea’s openness to negotiations.
Since agreeing to the meeting Donald Trump has canceled and rescheduled once. Finally, a few days ago, the world’s long wait has come to an end.
The summit took place on June 12 in Singapore, at which Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un signed a statement saying the United States is “committed to provide security guarantees” to North Korea, and Kim “reaffirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.” Many have been critical of the lack of details and specificity of the statement, noting that the United States was too quick to stop joint U.S. military exercises with South Korea when North Korea has offered nothing more than a promise of denuclearization. Not to mention that no clear definition of what this process of denuclearization will entail has been offered; it has even been suggested that the two parties haven’t really agreed on a common definition of denuclearization.
Aside from claims of Donald Trump having been shortsighted on this issue, many have been disappointed with the summit’s failure to address North Korea’s human rights abuses. According to Human Rights Watch, the North Korean regime “curtails all basic human rights, including freedom of expression, assembly, and association, and freedom to practice religion. It prohibits any organized political opposition, independent media, free trade unions, and independent civil society organizations. Arbitrary arrest, torture in custody, forced labor, and public executions maintain an environment of fear and control.” However, there is little evidence that Donald Trump raised these concerns with Kim Jong Un.
It seems that the fruits of the Singapore summit, if any, were bitter. Trump got to play president and make a “historic” move, while Kim Jong Un inched closer and closer to being portrayed as a legitimate superpower. For now, the rollercoaster has slowed down. Whether anything substantial will come out of it is anyone’s guess.