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With legitimacy for N Korea, Kim emerges stronger from the summit

The joint document listed no measures to finally end the war on the Korean Peninsula, where hostilities ended in 1953 with only an armistice.

editorials Updated: Jun 12, 2018 19:45 IST
Hindustan Times
singapore summit
Trump and Kim meet in Singapore. The document signed by the two leaders committed Trump to providing security guarantees to North Korea, while Kim merely reaffirmed his commitment to complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula(AP)

The historic summit in Singapore between a sitting US president and a North Korean leader was aptly described by one media organisation as “unprecedented and surreal”. Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un, who were trading insults just a year ago, met for wide-ranging talks and signed a document that talked about the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula but was unusually light on specifics. Some who have much at stake in the Korean Peninsula, such as Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, have welcomed the outcome of the summit but many others remained understandably sceptical.

Trump has defended his decision to engage with the reclusive leader of North Korea, who has been accused of wide-ranging rights abuses and even putting to death members of his family. And in his characteristic style, Trump stunned many by announcing the stopping of annual US-South Korean war games, saying they are “provocative” and “inappropriate” as the US and North Korea try to forge a new relationship. Clearly, the one person who emerged stronger from the summit was Kim, whose regime gained some form of legitimacy on the world stage. The man treated as an equal by Trump was the same person who had raised fears of a nuclear war just a few months ago.

The document signed by the two leaders committed Trump to providing security guarantees to North Korea, while Kim merely reaffirmed his commitment to complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula. Pointing to the complete lack of specifics on how this denuclearisation is to be achieved, analysts were quick to point out that the summit had yielded symbolic, and not tangible, results. Some even noted the language of the document merely picked up from where negotiations had been left more than a decade ago. This clearly is way short of what was expected from Trump, a transactional leader who projects himself as a master of deal-making and has often criticised his predecessors for not doing enough to end the nuclear threat emanating from North Korea. More significantly, the document listed no measures to finally end the war on the Korean Peninsula, where hostilities ended in 1953 with only an armistice.

It is welcome that there will be more talks between the US and North Korea as this will surely reduce the chances of a nuclear confrontation and help to ease the isolation of the regime in Pyongyang, the Trump administration must do much more to tie the North Korean leadership to a verifiable, time-bound and irreversible programme for denuclearisation. Without that, the summit in Singapore could go down in history as just a grand photo-op.

First Published: Jun 12, 2018 19:45 IST