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When the American fox and the Korean tortoise met in Singapore

By Owei Lakemfa

WHEN United States, US, President Donald Trump arrived the Sentosa Island of Singapore, he appeared psychologically unprepared for  his June 12, historic summit with the Democratic   Peoples’ Republic of Korean, North Korean President  Kim Jong- un. Two days before the summit, he had a verbal brawl at the G7 Summit with some of America’s closest allies; the trusting  but miffed Germans, the  exasperated French and traditional ally,  Canada.

US President Donald Trump (R) and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un shake hands following a signing ceremony during their historic US-North Korea summit, at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore on June 12, 2018.
Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un became on June 12 the first sitting US and North Korean leaders to meet, shake hands and negotiate to end a decades-old nuclear stand-off. / AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB

An angry Trump refused to sign the G7 Communique and accused Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of stabbing America in the back. In turn, the  countries accused America of insulting them.  As the meeting with Jong-un  got underway, the question was if brother Canada is beginning to find the Americans  unreliable, is it the North Koreans who would trust them?

Following  his fight with trusted allies, Trump arrived Singapore, a man that appeared isolated.

In  contrast, Jong-un  took strolls with Singaporean officials,  appeared at ease and enjoying  the international focus on him and his country. It was a sharp contrast; here is the leader  of the ‘Free World’ looking isolated and the leader of  North Korea, a country that has faced isolation for 68 years, appearing friendly, free and relaxed.

For North Korea, the meeting was a good public relations and it had every reason to appear confident. Its food crises, is over, its possession of nuclear weapons, meant that Trump cannot  afford to display the kind of arrogance he had exhibited to the Canadian and German leaders. Also, for the first time in nearly 70 years, the government in South Korea was not anti-North, wants peace and reconciliation and is keen to ensure that its territory will not be used as a theatre of war.

The North and South Korea conflicts are a  Cold War product. Both sides went to war on June 25, 1950. On the North Korean side were China and  the defunct Soviet Union, on the South Korean side were  21 countries including Great Britain with the US providing 90 per cent of the foreign troops under the United Nations flag.

It was a stalemate, and by the time the ceasefire agreement was signed in July, 1953, over five million people had lost their lives. The US alone lost almost 40,000  troops  with over 100,000 injured. Technically, the war has  not ended and it was only in April, 2018 that Jong-un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in agreed to sign a treaty formally ending the war, by the end of the year.

It is clear that if the US has the capability and military strength, it would be dictating and not holding a meeting with Jong-un; but  North Korea with its nuclear weapons has become like a needle which the rotund American cock, cannot swallow.

The meeting itself was more of drama than substance. President Trump said his country is committed to providing  security guarantees for North Korea, a promissory note which the North Koreans know is not cashable. In return,  Jong-un “reaffirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.” The same commitment he had made to the South Korean President and to the world 46 days earlier.

The twosome signed a vague four-point communique in which both sides committed themselves  to establishing  new  relations for peace and prosperity. They also agreed to  build “a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.” The third point was a reiteration of North Korea’s commitment “to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.” The last,  was  a  commitment to  recovering the remains of Prisoners Of War  and those Missing In Action and  the immediate repatriation of those already identified.

Both sides also  agreed  to hold follow-up negotiations, led by the American  Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, and a high-level North Korean  official. The timeframe for this is an equally vague “earliest possible date” to implement the outcomes of the  summit.

President Trump hailed the vague agreement as “comprehensive.” While Jong-un returned home apparently satisfied that his country had exacted some commitments from the US and shown itself to the world that contrary to widely held beliefs, it is not a warmongering state,  President Trump  addressed a press conference seeking to provide some flesh to the bony agreement and provide some details.

He said the US would stop its military exercises with South Korea because: “We will be saving a tremendous amount of money. Plus, it is very provocative.”

He is also looking forward to bringing the 32,000 American troops home. Both promises, apart from being confidence-building measures, are also economically sensible.  The rising annual cost of maintaining American troops in South Korea as at 2016, was $1.1 billion. Although the South Koreans pick up about half the bill, Trump has been complaining about it being a financial burden to cash strapped US. Additionally, the South Koreans spend $10 billion annually to provide support personnel services to the American military. It also makes huge arms purchases from the Americans which in the last 10 years came to over $32 billion. The South Koreans would rather want to spend such huge resources developing their country.

America would certainly want to reduce the cost of maintaining foreign bases in countries like Germany, Japan, Qatar, Djibouti, Australia, Bahrain,  Kenya, Colombia,  and Bulgaria.

The Trump promise of America gradually easing sanctions will be sweet to North Korean ears, but I am not sure how much store they can  put in another Trump promise to assist in the massive  development of  their  country, when America itself needs cash. As  at May, 2018,  the US official debt was $21.15 trillion  while its former Comptroller-General  (Director of American Government Accountability Office), Mr. David Walker says in reality, the American debt exceeds $65 trillion.

While Trump appears anxious  to negotiate a nuclear deal with North Korea, he is not hesitating in smashing  the Iranian Nuclear deal with the United Nations because he knows  the former has a stockpile of nuclear weapons while he believes the Iranians can be stopped from developing  nuclear weapons.

China should be happy about the easing of tension in the Korean Peninsula, stoppage of war games   and the possibility of America drastically reducing its troops there. But it should realise that the Americans may shift attention to the disputed South China Sea.

If peace were to return, the immediate winners would be the two Koreas who will spend less on arms, work towards reconciliation and if possible, unite. But let me conclude by stating that the Talks are not irreversible especially if they are tailored primarily to achieve unilateral North Korean denuclearization. The North Koreans will not entrust their security and lives in the hands of the Americans.


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