United States President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un signed an agreement to pursue the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula during a summit at Singapore on June 12.
The summit was the first-ever between a sitting American president and a leader of North Korea. Meetings with North Korea and the previous administrations of Bill Clinton, George Bush, and Barack Obama never pushed through.
The summit between President Trump and Kim, likewise, almost did not push through after a contentious exchange between representatives of their organizations.
Trump himself officially cancelled the meeting by stating that conditions for the moment were not conducive for a productive summit. Fortunately, backdoor negotiations between both parties plus assistance from South Korean President Moon Jae-in got the summit back on track.
The objective of the summit was to get North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons development program which would be a precursor to the denuclearization of the entire Korean peninsula.
In exchange for denuclearization, the United States would push for the lifting of economic sanctions against North Korea and reduce its military presence in the Korean peninsula.
However, negotiation is a process. Essentially, it is a battle of wills where one party tries to gain an advantage over the other party. When it comes to the United States and North Korea which has had a contentious past, we should not expect the objectives of the summit to be completely attained.
Yes, the United States and North Korea signed an agreement regarding the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. But the agreement did not lay down the specifics of denuclearization.
It is not clear if Kim would 100% give up his nuclear weapons. The agreement only signified that both countries would continue to pursue negotiations toward denuclearization.
The United States appeared to have given up more than North Korea did. President Trump agreed to terminate the country’s military drills with South Korea but reiterated that reducing the U.S. military’s presence in the region was “not part of the equation right now.”
North Korea’s human rights record, which the United Nations disclosed in a 2014 report was reminiscent of a scale equivalent to Nazi Germany, was likewise not taken up during the summit.
Only time will tell if the summit between the U.S. and North Korea would be a success. For now, it seems that the summit was merely a venue for exploratory talks between the two countries.
At least, the world can take comfort in knowing that the two leaders preferred to sign an ambiguous document intended for peace rather than press a red button that could start a new World War.