Trump-Kim Summit: Seeking a Sense of Security

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June 12, 2018: U.S. President Donald Trump meets with the top leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea Kim Jong Un in Singapore. Xinhua

The Trump-Kim summit on June 12 in Singapore broke through over half a century of hostility between the United States and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and marked the first time a sitting U.S. president met face-to-face with the top leader of DPRK over the past decades. Despite the frequent rhetorical exchanges last year and turbulent lead-up to the meeting, the historic summit is expected to help accelerate denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula through political solutions. 

This sensational meeting aimed to foster a sense of security. “Just landed— a long trip, but everybody can now feel much safer than the day I took office,” Trump tweeted on June 13 as he went back to Washington DC. “There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea.” This evidences that for any country, security is always one of the most pressing needs. 

Once isolated from the international community, DPRK was facing stifling sanctions imposed by the U.S. and pressure from the joint military exercises involving the U.S., Japan, and South Korea, leaving DPRK vulnerable to pressure from the U.S., the only superpower in the world. In his book Parallax Visions: Making Sense of American-East Asian Relations, Bruce Cumings, professor of the history department at the University of Chicago, argued that the U.S.’ nuclear threat gave DPRK a justifiable reason to conduct its nuclear testing. For DPRK, the drive to develop nuclear weapons was not to use them, but as a deterrence aggravated by outside pressure. Today, DPRK has increasing demand for economic development and improving people’s livelihood, so it craves for a peaceful and stable environment. 

From the perspective of the U.S., long-running sanctions and pressure failed to force DPRK to give up developing nuclear weapons. In the autumn of 2017 after DPRK completed its sixth nuclear test, it launched an inter-continental ballistic missile that analysts deemed capable of reaching the U.S. So, the traditional model of rejecting dialogue with DPRK could not guarantee American security. Even though Trump once threatened “fire and fury” against DPRK, he needed to take new strategies for opportunities to find solutions to this issue. 

Even though substantial measures were not listed on paper, the Trump- Kim summit eased tensions on the Korean Peninsula for now, a win-win outcome for both countries. In their joint agreement, the two parties agreed to establish a “new type of DPRK-U.S. relations” and build a “permanent and durable peace-keeping mechanism on the Korean Peninsula,” achieve “full denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula” and promote peace and prosperity. Previously, Washington insisted on “complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization” while Pyongyang said it only accepted “phased, simultaneous actions toward denuclearization.” Neither version was written into the agreement, evidencing compromise from both sides. Compromise is one of the key reasons that dialogue is necessary in the first place. The positive effects of the Trump- Kim summit can be attributed to both parties’ willingness to compromise, which allowed dialogue to be held on more equal footing.

 China has always remained committed to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, maintaining peace and stability on the peninsula and peacefully resolving the Korean nuclear issue through political talks. “Achieving denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, ending hostility and confrontation that has lasted for more than six decades, and seeking lasting peace and prosperity on the peninsula and in the region keep abreast of the trends of the times, and meet the common aspiration of the international community,” commented the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a statement. 

Hostile chess moves hurt security of both sides. Only when leaders from the U.S. and DPRK strengthen mutual trust, maintain dialogue and transform consensus into concrete and concerted measures through further negotiations can this “sense” of security become real security. And only when each other’s security demands are fully respected does a path to peace on a Korean Peninsula emerge. 

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