Kim gets to world stage in Singapore | Daily News
US-N. Korea summit big show, few gains

Kim gets to world stage in Singapore

North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un shakes hands with  US President Donald Trump at the start of their historic US-North Korea  summit, at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore on June 12. AFP
North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un shakes hands with US President Donald Trump at the start of their historic US-North Korea summit, at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore on June 12. AFP

Except for those die-hard Donald Trump fans in America, most of the world that watched yesterday’s historic summit meeting in Singapore between United States President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un thought that it was all a big show with little substance for much optimism. While some of the western news media hailed the summit as ‘historic’ for ‘world peace’, China’s CGTN network would only term it ‘rather historic’ while many other news channels saw the event as more of a ‘photo opportunity’ for the two leaders.

The final Singapore Declaration did not commit either side to any concrete steps to effectively reduce tension on the Korean Peninsula. Neither was there any spelling out explicitly what either side actually meant by ‘de-nuclearisation’. Neither were there any time table for negotiations and any milestones to be achieved in specific phases. These are what would be called ‘successful’ first steps in any diplomatic process.

Of course, Trump’s own Republican Party is fully behind their President in claiming the summit as a ‘success’ for American diplomacy. Like Trump himself, their primary interest has been in building up badly needed electoral support in time for this November’s mid-term congressional elections that could decide the Republican Party’s continued dominance of the US legislature.

Republican dominance

For Donald Trump, success in the November mid-term hustings may be critical for his personal survival not just in the White House but also in any criminal prosecution that may arise from current investigations of a possible Trump-Russia conspiracy. Only a continued Republican dominance in both the US Senate and the House of Representatives will enable Republicans to either slow down or stymie the on-going Federal Investigation Bureau (FBI) probe and also avoid an impeachment of Trump.

For Republicans, it is not so much as saving Donald Trump as using whatever political successes the President can claim for their own re-election success come November. Even anti-Trump opposition politicians of the Democratic Party, for the sake of appearing patriotic (again, for electoral purposes), have hurried to attribute the Singapore Summit’s ‘success’ more to American political and military power and pressure on Pyongyang. US news media normally so critical of the President (known for his crude bashing of mainstream news media) also grudgingly show up the ‘success’ side of this event rather than the lack of concrete substance in terms of actually bending North Korean will in abeyance to American superpower diktat.

American television, after all, survives on popularity ratings that bring advertising revenue and, must therefore satisfy the sizeable chunk of media audiences that are hooked by Trump’s populist (and often White racist and social elitist) demagoguery. Most of Donald Trump’s less educated vote banks know hardly anything at all about complex north-east Asia geo-politics but, nevertheless, enjoy the feel-good factor derived from Trump’s own showmanship in the Singapore Summit that appears to affirm an ‘American success’.

Trump and his aides and allies have only to publicly emphasise this ‘success’ dimension for his constituencies to be convinced of the ‘glory’ of their hero.

Significant achievements

What has the Singapore Summit achieved in terms of the previously stated goals of American foreign policy and strategic objectives in the Korean Peninsula and the north-east Asian region? For decades, US leaders have made the diminution of a communist republic in North Korea and emasculation of its military capability their primary objective. That in the 1951-53 Korean War, capitalist superpower America failed to defeat communist North Korea and stem the ‘red tide’ has rankled Washington ever since.

That is why, even after decades of a military stalemate on the Korean Peninsula, successive American administrations have balked at actually negotiating a full-fledged peace with Pyongyang. After all, Communism was the ultimate enemy of the western Capitalism and was the basic reason for the Cold War. This dogmatic hostility toward the DPRK remained even after the ending of the Cold War because of Pyongyang’s effrontery to proceed with its nuclear arming.

For decades, the US has led the Western power bloc in crippling North Korea with economic and political sanctions that, at one time in the 1990s, actually resulted in so much impoverishment in that unfortunate country that the United Nations had to declare a famine emergency there and rush food aid. At the same time, a besieged Kim Il Sung dictatorship resorted to extreme political repression, including imprisonment and mass execution of critics in order to cling to power during this dragging crisis. Meanwhile, the entire Korean Peninsula and its neighbourhood has remained hugely militarised as the world’s biggest superpower maintained its forces – including nuclear armed units – to protect its South Korean (capitalist) ally on the one hand and China helped sustain a heavily armed North Korean (communist) dictatorship on the other.

It is this militarisation and the persistent development by Pyongyang of its own nuclear military deterrent that has kept the Korean Peninsula in a state of war-readiness for the past seventy years. No amount of sanctions by the West has stopped North Korea’s arms build-up.

Nuclear success

The hard fact is that despite mass starvation and isolation from the world community, North Korea under the Kim Il Sung dynasty has succeeded in consolidating its own nuclear deterrent. It is only after this nuclear success that Kim’s grandson, Kim Jong-Un – himself as ruthless as his forebears – then took the initiative for rapprochement with the West.

It is but sheer coincidence that in Donald Trump, Kim found an opponent who was more interested in his own personal aggrandisement and electoral gain rather than in the larger geo-strategic interests of his own country and its closest allies. Kim has successfully played Trump along and this resulted in the climactic moment yesterday in Singapore.

The US President has met one of his country’s seemingly most implacable enemies in a diplomatic exercise that has resulted only in a commitment on paper – the Singapore Declaration – toward future disarmament of the Peninsula without spelling out what exactly this disarmament means. Even when asked by eager American journalists yesterday at the start of the summit, whether his country was committed to full ‘nuclear disarmament’ at any time in the future, the astute North Korean leader did not directly reply that question, instead, he talked about the difficult journey ‘overcoming prejudices’ (a clear reference to the West’s ideological prejudice against communism) in order to get to the Singapore Summit.

Analysts across the world are in agreement that the actual content of the Summit talks amounted to nothing more than pious pronouncements toward achieving ‘peace’ and further negotiations. They point out that previous negotiations between the West and Pyongyang, including the Panmunjom Declaration in April this year between the North and South Korean leaders, contained similar sentiments and vague commitments.

What many Western critical analysts point out is that in the past decades, Kim’s father and grandfather had made similar noises about peace but, faced by the continued massive armed presence of the US on the Peninsula, had continued with their own arms build-up.

What many Asian commentators hope is that this recognition of Pyongyang by Washington will now allow the two Koreas to proceed with their own peace negotiations somewhat independent of big power interference. Even if that does not fully de-nuclearise the Peninsula, at least the two neighbouring Koreas may be able to live together in greater co-operation and mutual prosperity. Certainly their immediate neighbours – China, Russia and Japan – may be happy with that modicum of stability.


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