President Trump declared success after a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un that resulted in an understanding that Pyongyang would work toward denuclearization and the US would end joint military exercises with South Korea.
Trusting his instincts and leveraging his strengths as a deal maker, Trump signed a four-point document with Kim Jong-Un.
In 2017, tensions between the isolated state of North Korea and the international community were at an all-time high. Pyongyang conducted over 20 missile test launches and conducted its sixth nuclear test. US President Trump took an aggressive stance while countering North Korea, stating that it would “be met with fire and the fury like the world has never seen.” North Korea also adopted a highly aggressive rhetoric and hinted that it could strike US territory Guam.
However, since the beginning of 2018, tensions with the isolated state began to ease. Pyongyang began a diplomatic outreach beginning with the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics, which were hailed as the “Peace Olympics.” In April, US officials confirmed that then-CIA director Mike Pompeo had visited Kim Jong-Un in a top-secret meeting over Easter; Pompeo met the north Korean leader again as secretary of state in May. Kim Jong-Un’s diplomatic outreach also extended to China. The North Korean leader personally visited President Xi Jinping twice between March and May.
On April 27th, North and South Korean leaders Kim Jong-Un and Moon Jae-In held a historic summit, the first in over a decade. The two nations announced that they had committed to end the 60-year Korean War, and signed the Panmunjom Declaration which agreed to denuclearise North Korea. It was announced that Kim Jong-Un and US President would meet in the first ever summit between a sitting US President and a North Korean leader.
The future of this summit came into question when Pyongyang reacted aggressively to US National Security Advisor John Bolton’s comments that the United States was looking at a “Libya model” to denuclearise the DPRK. North Korean vice foreign minister Kim Kye-Gwan said that Pyongyang would “no longer be interested” in dialogue if the US was trying to push for “unilateral nuclear abandonment.” President Trump cancelled the summit, stating that Pyongyang’s “tremendous anger and open hostility” had dissuaded him from meeting Kim. However, after North Korea’s former intelligence chief Kim Yong-Chol visited the White House for talks, Trump announced that his meeting with Kim Jong-Un was back on.
US President Donald J. Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un met in what was the first-ever US-North Korea summit on Singapore’s Sentosa Island. The core of the summit agreement was an exchange of US security guarantees in exchange for a North Korean commitment to “complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
The four-point declaration between President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un stated the following:
- The United States and the DPRK commit to establish new US-DPRK relations in accordance with the desire of the peoples of the two countries for peace and prosperity.
- The United States and the DPRK will join their efforts to build a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.
- Reaffirming the April 27, 2018 Panmunjom Declaration, the DPRK commits to work towards complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
- The United States and the DPRK commit to recovering POW/MIA remains, including the immediate repatriation of those already identified.
Absent from the joint statement was the definition, promoted up until now by the Trump administration, of complete, verifiable, irreversible dismantlement (CVID).
The outcome of the summit appeared to be a solution that had been championed by Beijing, a “freeze for freeze” in which the North Koreans continue to suspend nuclear and long-range missile tests while the US halts military exercises and does not impose new sanctions.
In return for the US concession, Kim signed a joint statement committing to denuclearization. However, this was a vaguely worded and no different from the one signed 25 years ago. Asked what would be different this time, Trump pointed to his instincts as a dealmaker.
Mr. Trump, in an interview he gave to ABC shortly after meeting with Kim, said he trusts the North Korean dictator. "I do trust him," Mr. Trump said.
As proof of Kim’s good intentions, Trump said Kim had offered to destroy a missile engine-testing site. The site in question could be the Hamhung missile site, thought to have been damaged in a recent engine test.
By contrast, the cancellation of the military exercises has been a priority for North Korea for decades. This move has come as a surprise to many allies in the region including South Korea. The US maintains around 30,000 troops in South Korea and once a year, it brings in others - typically from its Pacific base in Guam - to join large-scale drills.
Trump declared that the war games, involving planes flying long distances, were too expensive.
Kim was accompanied by his foreign minister Ri Yong-Ho, the former spy chief and vice-chair of the ruling party Kim Yong-Chol, and the head of the party’s international relations department Ri Su-Yong.
Before his press conference, reporters were shown a video that Trump said he had played to Kim and his aides towards the end of their talks. It was credited to Destiny Productions and was presented in Korean and English in the style of an action movie trailer.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters at the conclusion of the summit that he expresses his "heartfelt respect for the leadership and efforts of President Trump leading up to his meeting with Chairman Kim Jong-Un."
Former Vice President Joe Biden said in a statement on Tuesday that he welcomes efforts to "de-escalate tensions and pursue diplomacy, but proof of success will only come when we see substantive and verifiable evidence that North Korea is eliminating its nuclear arsenal."
Our assessment is that we should be careful to distinguish between the visuals and the ambitious expectations on the one hand and the need to deliver real, tangible, and definite progress on the other. The main takeaway from the summit is a sense that both leaders are committed to dialogue and diplomacy. We also feel that this is a case where faith may have triumphed over reality with a dose of spin and salesmanship thrown in to boost both the leaders with their base at home. We believe the message that North Korea can take home is that they don’t have to immediately denuclearize, and the message Trump can take home to his political base is that denuclearization is complicated and will be an incremental process.