Trump-Kim Summit: Back to the 1990s
BREAKTHROUGH - Elfren S. Cruz (The Philippine Star) - June 14, 2018 - 12:00am

After the Trump-Kim Summit,  President Trump said that the meeting went ”better than anybody had expected.” History will be the final judge; however the immediate judgment can be based solely on the joint statement signed by the two leaders. Any way I look at the statement, the only conclusion I can make is that Kim Jong-un is the big winner.

There were four parts in that joint statement. The first three parts were motherhood statements that had no relevance. The fourth part was the return of the remains of an estimated  6,000  Korean war veterans who died in North Korea during that war.

The third part is the one that is most critical and every word should be dissected. It says that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) reaffirms its commitment to complete “denuclearization in the Korean Peninsula.” Here are observations that some analysts are making at this point:

• The word “ reaffirm” implies that the United States accepts the proposal that North Korea has been committed to denuclearization in the past and is simply “reaffirming “ this commitment. This goes against past language of Trump and most nations of the world that believed that North Korea has never been serious about denuclearization. In fact, Trump used to call Kim Jong-un as the “little rocket man.” Clearly this language that used the word “ reaffirm” is a win for Kim Jong-un who wants to change his international image from a warmonger to a peacemaker.

• On the eve of the Trump-Kim Summit, both President Trump and Secretary  of State Mike Pompeo said that their description of a successful summit would be if North Korea accepted “complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization.” The final communiqué did not contain the terms “verifiable and irreversible.” In his press conference, Trump explained that once the “process of denuclearization” begins,  it cannot be reversed. This is, to say the least, a highly debatable conclusion. Here again, it is clear that Kim Jong-un refused to accept the proposed American language in the joint statement and the Americans surrendered on this issue. Another win for Kim Jong-un.

• Finally, the statement referred to denuclearization for the entire Korean peninsula and not North Korea. This is again language that both North Korea and China have been advocating. Their end goal is for the removal of all American military presence in the Korean peninsula.

Based on the language of the joint statement, Kim Jong-un is clearly the winner and proved to be a better  deal maker than Trump. However, the biggest shock for South Korea and other American allies was a statement by Trump, during his press conference, that the United States will cancel all future joint military exercises with South Korea. Trump call these “war games” as too expensive and provocative. 

In the 1990s the United States suspended joint military exercises only after a detailed agreement for denuclearization. Trump has agreed to calling off these “war games” even before the negotiation for a more detailed agreement.

Geopolitical analysts state that Kim Jong-un had three objectives. The first was to buy time; second, to keep his nuclear weapons for as long as possible; and, to ease sanctions. He has accomplished his first two objectives; and is now on the verge of achieving his third objective. The Chinese Foreign Ministry has already hinted at the possibility of easing sanctions. 

Kim also wanted to be seen, at home and in the world, as a legitimate ruler who was equal to the United States. The summit has won these goals for him especially with the photo of the two shaking hands with the background of an equal number of American and North Korean flags side by side. Kim also wanted to change his global image from the past one of an international pariah and a harsh dictator who starves and murders his own people. Kim walked around Singapore and was met with cheers and applause from the public. It seems that Kim has begun to change his global image.

There were other surprises during the Summit. Trump said Kim was someone who had many talents and was a strong leader; and, the two had experienced a bonding experience. The day before, Trump called Canadian Prime Minister a weak leader. I always thought that United States and Canada were the closest allies.

South Korea has a lot at stake in this Summit; and, Trump has said that he was in constant consultation with South Korea’s president. However, after the statements issued by Trump, the Office of the President of South Korea issued a press release that said that they will try to understand the ‘accurate’ meaning of his (Trump) statement. 

The Singapore Declaration of Denuclearization is very similar to other past Declarations of Denuclearization in the 1990s. In fact, some observers can say that those past declarations were even more detailed and they did not need a US president to meet with the North Korean president.

Here are some provisions in the 1994 Agreed Framework for denuclearization:

• Both sides commit not to nuclearize the Korean Peninsula. The United States must provide formal assurances not to threaten or use nuclear weapons against North Korea. Pyongyang is required consistently to take steps to implement the 1992 North-South Joint Declaration of the Korean Peninsula. 

The 1994 Framework had other provisions on denuclearization much more detailed than the 2018 Singapore Declaration. 

 As I said in a previous column, lots of photo opportunities for President Trump but the clear winner is Kim Jong-un whose cleverness and political skills seem to have been grossly underestimated.

 Creative writing classes for kids/teens and adults

Young Writers’ Hangout on June 23, July 7 and 21, August 4 and 18 (1:30 pm-3 pm; stand-alone sessions). Online Writing for Adults with Tarie Sabido on June 30 (1:30 pm-4:30 pm).  All classes at Fully Booked BGC.  For details and registration contact 0945-2273216 or

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