On June 12, 2018, a summit took place between the leaders of the DPRK and the US – a summit that few could have predicted even six months ago. No one has forgotten the mutual accusations and threats of destruction made by both countries’ leaders last year. Nevertheless, the two heads of state went ahead and a meeting took place in a spirit of proper diplomatic protocol and tactfulness.
Due credit should be given to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump for displaying the courage and decisiveness to find common ground and opportunities to start working to end the 70-year enmity between the countries, and declare their intentions to build new relations. The decision to take part in these negotiations may have been even more difficult for President Trump, who has faced strong criticism from both the opposition and his own party for giving in to the North Korean leader before the meeting had even taken place. Critics have said that even agreeing to meet with Kim Jong-un was too much of a concession.
Now is not the time to speculate on who won or lost between Kim and Trump. It is possible to say that they both won. To a greater degree, it is the people of the Korean peninsula and Southeast Asia who have won. While ways to achieve the points agreed upon at the Singapore summit are being investigated, President Trump has pledged not to carry out joint US-South Korean military exercises imitating a military invasion of the DPRK – something that the DPRK rightfully considered to be a provocation and a rehearsal for an attack by the US.
What measures need to be taken as a result of this unique summit? The statement signed by both leaders gives some idea. The most critical part of the document are the intentions and assessment of the situation agreed by both sides. The most important aspects are: in order to establish a new relationship between North Korea and the US and create a permanent and lasting system of peace on the Korean peninsula “President Trump gave a security guarantee to the DPRK, and Chairman Kim Jong Un confirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to the plan for full denuclearization of the Korean peninsula”.
It is worth noting that this is not the first time Kim Jong-un has stated his desire for full denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula. He did so during his 1 January address to the people, as well as while a special envoy from South Korea was visiting Pyongyang in March. At this meeting he reinforced this intention by emphasising that denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula was the will of his predecessors – his grandfather Kim il-Sung, founder of the DPRK, and Kim Jong-il, the father of the current leader of the DPRK. In the east, particularly in those countries with a Confucian culture, devotion to fulfilling the legacy of one’s ancestors is a lifelong debt for men, be they politicians or everyday people. Given this, there is no cause to doubt Kim’s intentions.
This gives rise to the question of why, under extremely harsh sanctions from the US, imperialist and even some friendly countries, were the nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them created at all? We can suppose that there was no other way to get the attention of the leadership of the US in order to normalise relations and put an end to the US’s hostile policies towards the DPRK. Kim Il-sung’s wish to normalise relations was proposed to President Jimmy Carter back in 1980. Subsequently, many similar proposals were made by Kim Jong-Il, including a proposal for an agreement on mutual non-aggression in the early 2000s. In the past, Kim Jong-un himself proposed a personal meeting with Barack Obama through the well-known basketball player Dennis Rodman. How did the US react to these attempts at communication? By haughtily ignoring them, as in February of this year at the Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, where US Vice President Mike Pence ignored the North Korean delegation headed by Kim Yong-nam, President of the Presidium of the People’s Assembly. The delegation also included Kim Jong-un’s sister, Kim Yo-jong, who has significant authority to deal with foreign dignitaries. Only when it became clear that the DPRK had both thermonuclear weapons and ICBMs did the US understand the need to adopt political and diplomatic measures to decrease tension and solve the nuclear problem on the Korean peninsula, which the Russian leadership had brought up often. Trump’s promise to ensure the security of the DPRK is a practical promise to turn away from hostile policies regarding North Korea (a first in the history of the DPRK).
This decision by the leadership of the DPRK and the US to establish new relations has, of course, caused concern among some politicians and experts about whether the DPRK will follow the Vietnamese model and move closer to the US and further from China. I don’t think that applies in this case. For one thing, the fact that the DPRK reported to both the international community and its own people that its leader flew to his meeting with Trump on a plane belonging to the upper leadership of the People’s Republic of China says something of the nature of the relationship between the two countries.
In terms of the gains and losses for Russia, an official message from the DPRK on the visit of Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov and his meeting with Kim Jong-un reported that Kim expressed his satisfaction with the new strategic relationship between the countries.
And there is another thing worth paying attention to. It is already known that on 4 July 2017, during a visit by a Chinese envoy to Moscow, a ‘roadmap’ for tension-reducing political and diplomatic measures and the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula was unveiled, having been approved by the leaderships of the two countries. This roadmap outlines a two-fold ‘freezing’ as a first stage: the cessation of nuclear missile research in North Korea and US-South Korean instruction, which poses a significant threat to the DPRK.
The second stage details a meeting between the leaders of the DPRK and the US, while the third-stage proposes the incremental solution of specific problems. Events on the Korean peninsula are unfolding exactly as proposed in this roadmap. At the time, both the US and the Republic of Korea rejected it, and it was derided in the conservative press as being populist. Something can be said of the wisdom and foresight of the experts and leaders from Russia and China who used analysis of the current international situation, as well as evaluation of the work of politicians, to forecast exactly this chain of events. This has led to the summit in Singapore as well as serious expectations for the peace process in the region for the benefit of all the peoples living there. Of course, conservative elements not yet cured of the poison of anticommunism and a unipolar worldview in the US, many European countries and South Korea will try to interfere with the implementation of these plans, but the times are not on their side.
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