Historiography or the narrative of international game theory is set to be crafted with a dramatically altered perception. The Donald Trump-Kim Jong-un summit will be noted for the concessions granted by the United States of America and the moral victory that has been scored by North Korea.
Altogether, the US President has made a major concession with a minimal return. Chiefly, he has promised to end the US-South Korea military drills ~ a thorny issue in the North’s equation with Washington. Barely a fortnight ago and largely owing to Mr Trump’s prevarication, the forward movement that was registered in Singapore’s Sentosa Island on Tuesday would have been inconceivable. Both leaders, however impetuous at home and the world, have now ensured that the improbable may yet be made possible, reaffirming Winston Churchill’s truism that “to jaw-jaw is always better than to war-war.”
True, the joint statement is less than substantive on the explosive issues; the two leaders have thus far emitted only a signal of intent. Yet there is little doubt that aside from his bolstered status and diplomatic leverage, Kim will return to Pyongyang as a more confident President. Equally, Mr Trump has made a major concession by promising to end the US-South Korea military drills ~ an issue that has buttressed Kim’s resolve to go ahead with the inter-continental ballistic missile tests. He has described the drills as “provocative” and “inappropriate”, thus giving the North what it wanted to hear, but suggesting it was right to demand it. His resolve to withdraw US troops from South Korea at some point could undermine the long alliance.
It is open to question whether the joint statement will gradually fructify to a fair measure of understanding. “We will be stopping the provocative war games, which will save us a tremendous amount of money,” was Mr Trump’s assurance to the world. Arguably, more critical than the economics of war-games has been the imperative for the two nations to mend fences.
Mr Trump’s declaration fulfils a major demand by North Korea which has, as a matter of policy, condemned these exercises as “invasion rehearsals”. In return as it were, President Kim has pledged to strive for “complete denuclearisation” ~ the major bone of contention between North Korea and the West and one that had threatened to torpedo the summit.
In parallel, President Trump has promised security guarantees to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). Not wholly unrelated is the joint pledge to recover POW/MIA (missing in action) remains, including the repatriation of those already identified. It is fervently to be hoped that “yesterday’s conflict does not have to be tomorrow’s war” to summon the words of Mr Trump. Both leaders must walk the talk. Thus far, they been less than euphoric over the watershed moment in Santosa Island. Markedly, there has been no ha-ha in either of the two countries.