The recent Singapore summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un is still blowing up my (Blotreport’s Melbourne correspondent) newsfeed, and, more ‘interestingly’, brought out some Trump fans (trumpettes) among my Facebook friends. So, I thought I might summarise the most common themes encountered which laud Trump’s supposed ‘stable genius’ as well as pass an opinion of the whole shenanigans.
It is indeed a fact that Trump is the first sitting US president to personally meet with the leader of the North Korean dictatorship. What is a less solid ‘fact’ is that this is due to Trump’s diplomatic prowess. It’s highly likely that Trump had less to do with the meeting occurring now, than he would like to think. It has much more to do with the fact that North Korea (DPRK) feels it can finally negotiate from a position of strength, now that it definitely has nuclear weapons and the missiles to deliver them, something that has only been certain since 2016 or 2015 at the earliest1. And Kim wasn’t going to negotiate with a president that was going to be gone months later, as Obama was in 2016.
The issues with Trump (or the US) being serious about this agreement are many. The main one is that he sees everything as a zero-sum game. He is reputed to have said as much during his real estate days, “if you’re not screwing someone, then it’s you being screwed”. That is an idiotic way to think about diplomacy. On a larger scale, everyone should be wary of agreements and treaties made with the US (not just under Trump), considering their history of ignoring them when they become inconvenient – just ask the Native Americans or, more recently, US trading partners.
Although most of what North Koreans are told about the world is literally fake news, a fact that everyone should realise is that the carpet bombing of the country during the Korean War caused an estimated 1 million plus deaths and destroyed three quarters of Pyongyang3,4. If the bombing of London by Germany is still in the British consciousness, then it should not be a surprise that this bombing still shapes North Koreans’ attitudes towards the US. And let’s not forget that (counter to the treaties signed by all sides) the US stationed its nuclear weapons in South Korea from 1958 and did not withdraw the last one until 1991. The number of warheads stationed in Korea peaked at about 9505. Indeed, it continues to have nuclear capable submarines stationed in the western Pacific. Which country wouldn’t feel threatened by that?
As for the North Koreans: What will be the difference between this agreement and the one Moon Jae-In signed with Kim Jong-Un? Indeed, what are the differences with the 5 previous agreements the DPRK has made? These include:
1985: DPRK signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). It did not, however, complete an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards agreement.
1992: DPRK and South Korea signed the Joint Declaration on the Denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula, agreeing not to test, produce, possess or deploy nuclear weapons, and agreeing that they will use nuclear energy solely for peaceful purposes.
1994: United States and DPRK signed the Agreed Framework. Under this agreement, Pyongyang committed to freezing its illicit plutonium weapons program in exchange for aid. In 2002, then president George W. Bush lumped DPRK in the ‘axis of evil’ and stated that “by seeking weapons of mass destruction, these regimes pose a grave and growing danger”. The Bush administration later revealed that DPRK had operated a secret nuclear weapons program in violation of the 1994 agreement.
2003: Six-Party Talks initiated in August of that year involved China, Japan, DPRK, Russia, South Korea and the United States. In between periods of stalemate and crisis, those talks arrived at critical breakthroughs in 2005, when the DPRK pledged to abandon “all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs” and return to the NPT. In 2006, DPRK claimed to have successfully tested its first nuclear weapon. The six party talks broke down over DPRK’s refusal to allow international inspectors unfettered access to suspected nuclear sites.
2012: DPRK agrees to suspend operations of its Yongbyon uranium enrichment plant and begin moratoria on nuclear and long-range missile tests.
2016: DPRK signals its willingness to resume negotiations on denuclearisation6,7…..you should get the picture.
And the Kim-Trump agreement itself? There is not much in it that means anything. Trump has committed to maintain North Korea’s security – but there is no definition of what that means, so it is unclear what that will be in practice. Both committed to the current agreement between DPRK and South Korea (Panmunjon Declaration) on ‘working towards’ the denuclearisation of the peninsular with no clear deadlines and no process for verifying any progress. The only thing in it which is new is the proposed repatriation of US dead from the Korean War. Trump also caved in to North Korean demands to cease joint exercises with the South Korean armed forces, with the concomitant likelihood that the US will pull some of its 20+ thousand troops out of South Korea8.
There is no chance Kim will ‘denuclearise’ the DPRK. Think about it. The DPRK has been treated as a pariah by most nations, even to some extent by the Chinese, and despite agreeing numerous times to not develop nuclear weapons or ballistic missiles, DPRK has developed both. Now it has these weapons, Kim Jong-un is being courted by Trump, has appeared with him in a summit essentially as equals, and has obtained concessions from Trump despite only agreeing to something nebulous with no timetable. So, obtaining nuclear weapons and missiles has paid off. Trump’s only achievement is getting 65-year-old remains back from the DPRK. I bet Kim cannot believe his luck that he, despite having little or no diplomatic experience, has played Trump like a fiddle. He, like Trump, probably thinks he is a genius. Compared to Trump, he may well be.
And to cap it all off; here is one of Trump’s multifarious lies: On Air Force One, in an interview with Murdoch’s Faux News, Trump claimed “thousands” of parents of fallen Korean War soldiers asked him for their sons’ remains while on the campaign trail9. The Korean War ended in 1953. If those parents were 18 when they had their kids (who enlisted at 18), those parents would be at least 101 years old today. And trumpettes believe this buffoon.