Played Like a Fiddle

12 June 2018


Cogito Ergo Non Serviam

Trump Gets Next-to-Nothing in Summit with Kim 


As feared here, Donald Trump met with Kim Jong-un in Singapore overnight and got next-to-nothing for his trouble. In their joint declaration, there were four points, and none really amount to much. In addition, Mr. Trump threw the US-South Korean alliance into chaos by announcing an end to the semi-annual war-games in which the two engage to ensure smooth cooperation should it ever be necessary. Yesterday, this journal argued that the summit could be a win-win situation for both sides. As it turned out, Chairman Kim over-performed, and Mr. Trump proved himself an amateur at diplomacy.

The relevant parts of the joint statement read:

"1. The United States and the DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea, North Korea's name for itself] commit to establish new US-DPRK relations in accordance with the desire of the peoples of the two countries for peace and prosperity.

"2. The United States and the DPRK will join their efforts to build a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.

"3. Reaffirming the April 27, 2018 Panmunjom Declaration, the DPRK commits to work towards complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

"4. The United States and the DPRK commit to recovering POW/MIA remains, including the immediate repatriation of those already identified."

Committing to establishing new relations is largely meaningless; ratcheting down the tensions isn't bad but didn't require a summit. Peace is also nice, but defining peace is tricky. In one sense, there has been peace there since 1953. Complete denuclearization is desirable but what does it actually mean? And committing to work towards it is hardly measurable. Committing to the recovery of dead US service members is a decent humanitarian gesture; one wishes the Kim regime cared as much about living North Koreans.

In brief, Mr. Trump gave away a card that could only be played once, the first meeting of the North Korean dictator with a US president. It was a card that should have been played at some point, to be sure. However, it would have been vastly better to get something more for it than platitudes and corpses.

Where the president erred was in hurrying this summit along. When offered the meeting back in April after the euphoria of the Korean Olympics, he leaped without looking. The preparation was hurried, his own understanding of the issues between the US and the DPRK was limited and never enhanced through study or preparation, and the president's desire to do something historic no matter what undermined the US positions.

In the short term, the administration will claim the meeting was a triumph. Longer term, one expects that the follow-on negotiations that the joint statement mentioned will be slow and infrequent. Mr. Kim is a younger man than Mr. Trump. He has his triumph and doesn't need another one for a very long time.

Meanwhile, Chairman Kim may get some economic help. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang stated a couple of hours ago, "The U.N. Security Council resolutions that have been passed say that if North Korea respects and acts in accordance with the resolutions, then sanction measures can be adjusted, including to pause or remove the relevant sanctions. China has consistently held that sanctions are not the goal in themselves. The Security Council's actions should support and conform to the efforts of current diplomatic talks towards denuclearising the Korean Peninsula, and promote a political solution for the peninsula." China will unofficially relax the sanctions any moment.

Thanks to the amateurism of Mr. Trump, the US-DPRK relationship is back to where it was in 2008, except, Mr. Trump has been photographed shaking Chairman Kim's blood-stained hand.

© Copyright 2018 by The Kensington Review, Jeff Myhre, PhD, Editor. No part of this publication may be reproduced without written consent. Produced using Ubuntu Linux.

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