Trump-Kim Summit: The Biggest Will They or Won’t They in International Relations

2018 has been an unbelievable year so far. The Kardashian family welcomed 3 babies, Prince Harry married Meghan Markle in a fairy-tale wedding,  Wenger left the club after 22 years at the helm, and President Donald Trump and Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un have been embroiled in the most publicized on-again and off-again relationship since Ross and Rachel. In this latest blog post by Legally Flawed, I will try to break down what the current scenario is in this relationship and how the Trump-Kim Summit came to be. Moreover, it will also look into the historical background so that we get a context for the upcoming talks and its effects on the world.

Trump-Kim Relationship

Image result for Trump-Kim Jong Un summit

Since President Trump took office i.e. January 20th 2017, the already sour diplomatic relations between the US and North Korea seemed to worsen. Threats of nuclear and missile attacks became common place, and the world assumed that this was one aspect which could very effectively lead into war. So, it came as a huge surprise (to those who weren’t following these Twitter dialogues between the two leaders) to learn that the two nations are looking for a dialogue where they would talk about peace. This is a timeline of events, which tries to describe the evolution of their relations.

Back in 2017

In the second-half of 2017, the tensions between US and North Korea escalated rapidly and multi-fold. There were regular nuclear threats, missile tests by North Korea and a lot of harsh back and forth when it came to any sort of communication between the two.

But in December 2017, the outlook by the US towards North Korea changed. Earlier, US expected complete denuclearisation before any talks took place with N. Korea. But the then US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, stated that there could be a shift in the department policy. The Guardian reported Rex Tillerson stating as follows at the Atlantic Council Thinktank in Washington:

“We are ready to talk anytime North Korea would like to talk. We are ready to have the first meeting without preconditions. Let’s just meet,” Tillerson said. “And then we can begin to lay out a roadmap … It’s not realistic to say we are only going to talk if you come to the table ready to give up your program. They have too much invested in it.

“Let’s just meet and let’s talk about the weather,” the secretary of state said. “If you want … and talk about whether it’s going to be a square table or a round table if that’s what you’re excited about.”

However, he then laid down one condition and said there should be a “period of quiet” in which such preliminary talks could take place. He portrayed it as a practical consideration.

“It’s going to be tough to talk if in the middle of our talks you decide to test another device,” he said. “We need a period of quiet.”

The 2018 Turnabout

  • 9th January: North Korea agreed to send athletes to South Korea for the Winter Olympics
  • 9th February: The North Korean and South Korean athletes march together as one delegation during the opening ceremony of the Olympics
  • 7th March: North Korea willing to discuss the fate of its nuclear arsenal with US
  • 9th March: President Trump accepts Kim Jong Un’s invitation for talks
  • 18th April: President Trump confirms that Mike Pompeo has met with Kim Jong Un
  • 21st April: North Korea suspended its nuclear and missile tests, along with plans to close down the nuclear sites
  • 27th April: North Korea’s Kim Jong Un meets South Korea’s Moon Jae In in a historical moment for peace talks.
  • 9th May: Pompeo makes another visit to Pyongyang to prepare for the Trump-Kim summit. As a goodwill gesture, North Korea released 3 Americans who had been imprisoned.
  • 10th May: President Trump announces a meeting between him and Kim Jong Un on June 12th
  • 16th May: North Korea breaks of an important meeting with South Korea as it protested over the US-South Korea military exercise.
  • 24th May: President Trump cancelled the meeting scheduled for June 12th
Letter by Donald Trump to Kim Jong Un dated May 24, 2018 cancelling the meeting
Letter by Donald Trump to Kim Jong Un dated May 24, 2018 cancelling the meeting
  • Although the President cancelled the meeting, the WHite House and Sarah Suckerbee stated that they were still preparing for the Trump-Kim summit.
  • On 1st June, President Trump’s meeting with North Korea’s Kim Jong Us has been reinstated.

Historical Context

Before we start applauding and hoping for a peaceful settlement of the disputes between North Korea and America, it is necessary to understand its origin. The tensions between the two states started a few years after World War II. Japan had been ruling the Korean peninsula. When the Japanese rule ended, it was a highly industrialised region (second only to Japan). As such, it was only natural that the superpowers wanted to exert their influence on Korea. Russia was always searching for ways to increase its way of communism. America, fearing this conversion tried to exert its weight on the Korean region. Thus Korea split into two along the 38th parallel.

According to the World Economic Forum,

Effectively, North Korea became a Soviet-supported communist regime led by Kim Il-sung, grandfather of current ruler Kim Jong-un, while South Korea became a US-backed attempt at democracy under Syngman Rhee.

But the environment of resentment and increasing hostilities gave way to the Korean War (1950-1953). North Korea was backed by Russia and China; while South Korea was backed by US. The war ended with an armistice which was signed in 1953. This armistice created a Demilitarised Zone which separated North and South Korea.

Technically, it is seen that the war hasn’t ended and it is only frozen. Which is why the meeting of Kim Jong Un and Moon Jae-in is seen as an important step. During their meeting they signed the Panmunjom Declaration for Peace, Prosperity and Unification on the Korean Peninsula. The document commits the two countries to a nuclear-free peninsula and talks to bring a formal end to the war.

History between US and North Korea

Coming back to 1953 – when North Korea saw the power of UN backed by US forces due to its weapons and missiles, it sparked an idea for extensive weapons development programme. This included especially the development of a Nuclear Weapons Programme. This process of developing weapons was known as All-Fortressization. Their brazen experimentation in nuclear weapons earned them several sanctions. Mostly, their continued foray into nuclear weapons also put US at visible risk. Hence there was stronger opposition by the US. But this opposition differed from President to President. The Indian Express states:

According to an analysis by Vox, the policies of former presidents have been different from each other. The Clinton administration tried negotiations, Bush administration suspended all talks, and the Obama administration waited and watched, terming their policy as “strategic patience”. The Trump administration, however, has been unclear in what its policy will be. It has flitted from aggression to “strategic patience” in the past two weeks.

How is this seen globally?

Until last year, the world looked wide-eyed as US and North Korea dealt verbal blows at each other. After this year’s turn of events, the peace talks between the two seems to have given everyone a sigh of relief. Kim Jong Un in an unprecedented move reached out to Xi Jinping of China, Moon Jae In of South Korea and Donald Trump of the US. The Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement posted on its official WeChat account that it viewed the meeting between the United States and North Korean leaders as key to achieving denuclearisation and lasting peace in Korea.

This can only be seen as a positive step to get away from the tensed relations in the Korean Peninsula. What do you guys think? Will the talks be fruitful in achieving the said end-goal.

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