What’s next after Trump-Kim summit?

What’s next after joint statement of US President Donald Trump and North Korea’s leader Chairman Kim Jong Un at the Singapore Summit. Read few comments.

President Donald J. Trump meets with North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un. Credit: https://www.instagram.com/whitehouse/

Virginie Grzelczyk, Senior Lecturer in International Relations, Aston University

The joint document that they signed show some depth and craftiness on the DPRK part: they are committing to the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, NOT the unilateral dismantlement of their own weapons. In this particular case, they are not departing from their own line at all. On the US side, they are committing to providing security guarantee, which is far away from reducing or removing sanctions, and has to be articulated into something concrete. This will be the test. The joint document does NOT talk about CVID. This is a major ‘loss’ for the USA.

This seems to be Donald Trump’s new bromance of the week, his ‘terrific’ relationship with Kim Jong Un. Kim Jong Un can be very satisfied of the summit: he was treated as an equal to the USA, did not foot the bill for the summit since China provided the plane and Singapore paid the rest, had major world media exposure. Donald Trump had major world media exposure as well, which is what he was after. Now if the aftermath of the summit fail to create something concrete, both sides can blame the other for lack of trying hard enough or reneging on commitments…

Maria Ryan, Assistant Professor of American History, University of Nottingham

Initial thoughts are: yes, the declaration is very short and light on detail. This is probably down to the fact that there was very little preparation time before the meeting. It essentially re-commits the two states to working towards denuclearisation and to normalising the political relationship. This is similar to past agreements in 2005 and 1994, but these agreements broke down because of differences over implementation. Denuclearisation is obviously a long term process with many steps. (We know this from past successful denuclearisation processes eg. Iraq 1991-93, and the former Soviet successor states e.g. Ukraine, Kazakhstan, which removed old Soviet-era nuclear weapons). What is interesting to me is that Trump has actually recognised that this process will inevitably be long term, whereas last year he claimed he wanted immediate denuclearisation.

The two leaders have staked their personal credibility on improving the relationship. It was never realistic to think that one summit, held at such short notice, could solve a conflict that has been frozen since 1953. What’s important now is that the summit is followed by an ongoing high level process to work out how to actually implement the objectives Trump and Kim agreed to. I don’t think there is any certainty that they will be able to do this because this is a hawkish US administration and Trump doesn’t care about reversing course. But at least the two leaders have spoken to each other and are, presumably, aware of what the other’s goals are.

Ramon Pacheco PardoSenior Lecturer in International Relations, King’s College London, KF-VUB Korea Chair

I think that the statement is short but still meaningful. It commits the US to engagement with North Korea at the Secretary of State level. President Trump has also indicated that he will have more meetings with Kim Jong-un. This is a dramatic change from last year, when all the talk was about ‘fire and fury’ and a ‘bloody nose’ strike on North Korea. This matters. Also, the declaration shows much-needed flexibility on the part of the US. The declaration includes denuclearisation, as expected, but not CVID. This has stalled progress in the past, and will not do so this time.

In my view, President Trump will be satisfied. The meeting will help to strengthen his foreign policy credentials. Prior to the summit, he was being criticised for his unpreparedness and lack of foreign policy chops. However, he might be on the verge of eliminating the North Korean threat. This will bolster his standing domestically. As for Kim, he might be about to fundamentally change the relationship between his country and the US. This is a long-term goal for North Korea. So he should be very happy with this summit.

Edward GriffithSenior Lecturer & Course Leader Asia Pacific Studies, University of Central Lancashire

It’s been yet another remarkable day. The declaration is important – not because of what it commits to (it commits both sides to very little) but because it has been made at all.

It would be very easy to point out the contradictions in what Trump says and emphasise the over-the-top exaggerations (he consistently described the agreement as “comprehensive” when it is nothing of the sort). However, there have been sensible voices in academia who have called for talks between the US and North Korea for years. There are a number of different possible outcomes to North Korea’s nuclear programme but all of the good ones begin with the two sides talking, and that is what has happened here. The most significant thing to come out of this is the agreement to carry on talking. What we should hope is that this process becomes normalised and that it is able to continue beyond a Trump presidency and does not rest solely on the personalities of the leaders. So in my view, this is a success. The worry that I have about it is that Trump’s tendency to overplay what he has achieved will leave the American public unprepared for the long road ahead if this process is to have the effect that is hoped for.

I expect that Kim Jong Un is delighted with what happened. He has achieved what neither his father nor grandfather could – to have North Korea treated as an equal by the United States on the world stage. Despite the repeated commitments to denuclearisation he has also achieved a couple of important wins without giving away very much at all. Firstly, the words “verifiable” and “irreversible” do not appear in the joint statement, which appears to be a concession from the United States (although I and many others have long argued that the aim of “irreversible” denuclearisation is impossible and should be dropped anyway). Secondly, Trump has now publicly stated that the “war games” – joint military exercises with South Korea – will stop. These exercises raise tension with the North and the commitment to stop them will play well with the military back in the DPRK, which helps Kim (there have been rumours of opposition to his approach to the US within his military).

Donald Trump has also got what he wanted but it is almost entirely symbolic. He will no doubt have enjoyed the attention and he has created a moment of history that will be remembered, even if it remains unclear how successful this process will be long term. The agreement to repatriate the remains of soldiers from the Korean War is surely not as significant to Trump as he claimed during the press conference, but it does allow him to show small, personal victories that give him the ammunition to argue he is doing the right thing.

Sharon Squassoni, Research Professor, Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University

It’s a good start.  The statement gets the relationship off the ground but is almost completely devoid of details. Secretary Pompeo and his North Korean counterparts will take up four baskets of issues in the future: diplomatic relations, security and peace on the Peninsula, denuclearization and efforts to recover POW/MIA remains.  Trump and Kim made personal commitments to security assurances and denuclearization but the statement didn’t say how, why or when.  There was no reference to a peace treaty, which will be a tricky effort, but it will likely be part of the follow-on negotiations.  And, there was no reference to complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization. Thankfully, this suggests a more practical approach to reducing the risks from Kim’s nuclear weapons.  However, the linkage of denuclearization to the Kim-Moon summit document could mean that the United States might be kept at arms length in that process.  Of course, South Korea has to play a key role in building peace and security on the Korean peninsula, but the nuclear weapons that Kim worries about are American.

I think Kim is certainly satisfied with the summit — he really didn’t have to do much more than reaffirm statements he has made already. Trump is the one who made major conciliatory moves, agreeing to security assurances and establishing relations with North Korea.  Who knows whether there is a special bond between the two, but we all know that Trump is notoriously fickle.  One hopes that experts move in quickly to solidify whatever gains are possible.

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