An historic event that will undoubtedly have future ramifications on a global scale took place in Singapore on Monday as President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un finally met face-to-face for a highly anticipated summit to discuss the possibility of denuclearization of the northern Korean peninsula. It was the first ever meeting between a sitting US president and a North Korean leader.
Pyongyang pledged “to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula” and Trump made dramatic on-the-spot concessions to Kim that his own advisers had urged him against, including a halt on “provocative” U.S.-South Korea military exercises and an admission he could be willing to withdraw U.S. troops from South Korea in the future.
Kim’s commitment to denuclearize was included in a document signed by both leaders. It calls for the two countries to jointly work on efforts to build a lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula, to establish new U.S.-North Korea relations and to recover the remains of prisoners of war and military members missing in action. The two sides promised to hold follow-up negotiations.
While the document didn’t lay out any specifics regarding denuclearization, Trump said at a news conference “We’re starting that process very quickly. Very, very quickly, absolutely.”
“We’re going to denuke North Korea,” Trump told veteran reporter Greta Van Susteran in an interview for VOA. He added that US troops stationed in South Korea will remain in place but announced one concession long-sought by North Korea not included in the document signed earlier on Monday.
Intelligence assessments put the number of North Korean weapons at as many as 30, according to a Washington Free Beacon report. The country’s newest long-range missiles, the Hwasong-14 and Hwasong-15 were flight tested in July and November respectively and are capable of hitting the United States with a nuclear warhead.
Trump also said neither side issued ultimatums and that the agreement was the result of months of negotiations.
“You know that could have ended in a war, that could have ended with many millions of people — you know North Korea very well, Seoul has 28 million people, that could have ended with millions of people dead but we ended with a deal,” Trump said.
“We will be stopping the war games, which will save us a tremendous amount of money, unless and until we see the future negotiation is not going along like it should,” Trump said.
The Pentagon in the past has opposed curbs on military exercises designed to keep U.S. and South Korean forces at a high state of readiness in what the military calls prepared to “fight tonight.”
Trump struck an optimistic tone about his talks with Kim. “My meeting with Chairman Kim was honest, direct, and productive. We got to know each other well in a very confined period of time,” he said.
Trump stressed that existing US sanctions will remain in place until North Korean nuclear weapons “are no longer a factor.”
Before their meeting, the two shook hands at the entrance to the Capella Hotel in Sentosa. In brief comments to reporters before the one-on-one meeting, Trump said he believed the meeting will be a “tremendous success”.
Kim arrived in Singapore aboard a Chinese commercial airliner—symbolic of the influence China holds over its communist neighbor as its chief economic and political patron.
“It’s my honor. We will have a terrific relationship, no doubt,” he added.
Kim said, “It was not easy to get here….There were obstacles but we overcame them to be here.”
The two leaders then met one-on-one for about 45 minutes in a room at the hotel. Trump said following that one meeting that it was “very, very good. Excellent relationship.”
After having lunch together, they stopped briefly to look at the Trump’s special limousine.
As they got back to the business of the day, Trump said he and Kim discussed the issue of verification and that monitoring denuclearization efforts would be achieved “by having a lot of people there.” He also predicted Kim would begin work right away to “live up to” the agreement.
“The current state of affairs cannot endure forever,” Trump said. “The people of Korea—North and South—are profoundly talented, industrious, and gifted. These are truly gifted people. They share the same heritage, language, customs, culture, and destiny. But to realize their amazing destiny, to reunite their national family, the menace of nuclear weapons will now be removed.”
A Pentagon report recently sent to Congress said Kim is unlikely to give up its nuclear arsenal. In 2013, North Korea enacted a law that declared the country a nuclear weapons state, an indicator Pyongyang does not intend to give up its arms, the report said.
Few specifics emerged after the summit about details of future arms control and security talks to be spearheaded by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. The talks will begin soon, Trump said.
Former US ambassador Bill Richardson told VOA he is concerned about no verification of what the North Koreans will do about missile technology in the DPRK, as well as no details given of nuclear reduction or the peace treaty and human rights.
North Korea twice before agreed to end its nuclear arms program but ended up misleading successive U.S. administrations about its plans and intentions while covertly developing an extensive nuclear arms infrastructure and missiles of increasing range.
The 1994 Agreed Framework during the administration of President Bill Clinton sought to limit North Korea’s nuclear programs but was used by Pyongyang to continue developing nuclear fuel and missiles.
Then in the early 2000s, Kim’s father, Kim Jong Il agreed to denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula at one point during six nation nuclear talks involving the United States, North Korea, China, Russia, Japan, and South Korea, according to a Washington Free Beacon report.
Both agreements however failed to limit the North Korean nuclear program, which proceeded apace with both plutonium and uranium production as well as longer-range and more capable missile systems.
Joseph DeTrani, former U.S. special envoy for North Korea, hailed the summit as a significant first step.
“Compared to eight months ago when there was a possibility of stumbling into conflict on the Korean Peninsula, we are now in much better place,” DeTrani said. “We are now looking at comprehensive denuclearization and peace on the peninsula and an eventual normal U.S.- North Korea relationship. That’s significant.”
Also weighing in on the subject of the results of the summit was Florida Senator Marco Rubio (R., Fla.). He warned there are risks to dealing with Kim Jong Un, who he described in a tweet as a “total weirdo.”
“Any ‘deal’ that doesn’t ultimately bring to an end these atrocities under Kim is not a good deal,” Rubio stated.
“Hope I’m wrong but still believe they will never give up nukes & ICBM’s unless believe failure to do so triggers regime ending reaction,” the senator said.
On the highly charged subject of human rights, Trump said that he and Kim only very briefly touched on the topic, but that the two sides would discuss it more in the future. When asked about thousands of people imprisoned in labor camps, Trump said he thinks he has helped them because things in North Korea will change.
“I think they are one of the great winners today,” he said.
Trump cited American college student Otto Warmbier, who was arrested by North Korean authorities in 2016 and died a year ago after being repatriated to the United States with severe brain damage. “Otto did not die in vain, he had a lot to do with us being here today,” Trump said.
“A critical issue between America and North Korea that has received scant media attention involves the fate of Americans last known alive in North Korean hands and never returned at the end of the Korean War, along with those reported shipped during the war to North Korean allies the Soviet Union and China, as well as U.S. POWs reportedly sent from Vietnam to North Korea, which flew jets against American aviators over the skies of its North Vietnamese ally during the Vietnam War,” said Mark Sauter, a noted researcher and activist.
Trump also thanked the North Korean leader for taking what he called a bold step and saying he “has the chance to seize an incredible future for his people.”
He offered his thanks to the leaders of China, Japan and South Korea for their efforts in making the summit happen. Both Trump and Kim expressed gratitude toward each other for the meetings. Trump said he would “absolutely” invite Kim to visit the White House and is open to visiting Pyongyang as well.
Kim departed Singapore shortly after the summit ended on Tuesday afternoon; Trump boarded Air Force One and began the long flight home several hours later.
Fearing assassination and spying, Kim brought his own food and toilet to the summit to fend off attempted food poisoning and to thwart intelligence-gathering about his diet.
By: Fern Sidman
(VOA & Washington Free Beacon)