President Trump has touched down in Singapore ahead of his much-anticipated meeting with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. The summit, which will take place tomorrow, will commence with a one-on-one meeting between two leaders who, just last year, resorted to name-calling and nuclear threats.
Extraordinarily, despite a last-minute cancellation issued by President Trump last month, the meeting is finally set to happen Tuesday.
There is a huge amount on the table. The ultimate hope for the meeting is that the North Korean regime will secure its commitment to a complete nuclear disarmament program and focus on developing its economy — something that Kim Jong-un himself has said to be very open to.
A long-lasting peace agreement regarding the Korean peninsula will also be high on the agenda, building on a historic meeting between Jong-un and South Korean president Moon Jae-in at which the men crossed over into each other’s territories. It was an extraordinary moment of diplomatic progress.
But the road to this historic summit has not come without its significant political hurdles. In mid-May, North Korea abruptly canceled a high-level meeting with the South, citing concerns about American-South Korean military exercises in the peninsula region. Then, when Vice President Mike Pence suggested that North Korea would be forced to adopt the “Libyan model” if Kim Jong-un doesn’t make a deal with Trump over his denuclearization program, he was met with harsh rebuke from the communist nation. Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi abandoned his quest to develop nuclear weapons in 2003 before being ousted by UN-sanctioned NATO airstrikes, and subsequently killed, in 2011.
When pressed about the “Libyan model,” which was suggested as a resolution to the North Korean diplomatic problem by U.S. National Security Adviser, John Bolton, Pence refused to acknowledge this was a threat, instead responding, “I think it’s more of a fact.” This sparked fury from the North Korea, who labeled Pence a “political dummy,” according to CNN.
“As a person involved in the U.S. affairs, I cannot suppress my surprise at such ignorant and stupid remarks gushing out from the mouth of the U.S. vice president,” said Choe Son Hui, a vice-minister in the North Korean Foreign Ministry, in response to the VP’s comments.
“Whether the U.S. will meet us at a meeting room or encounter us at nuclear-to-nuclear showdown is entirely dependent upon the decision and behavior of the United States,” Hui added. Following these remarks, President Trump said he would be pulling out of the summit, citing the North’s tremendous anger and open hostility.”
Then, on June 1 following a meeting with North Korean envoy Kim Yong Chol at the White House, Trump announced that the meeting was back on for June 12.
The level of diplomatic success that could be yielded from such a staggeringly rare political meeting is nothing short of monumental. But the reality could be very different. Kim Jong-un is a brutal dictator with a reputation for being highly impulsive and wildly unpredictable. One thing is for sure, though, there will be plenty of discussion about those “nukes.”
“The best possible outcome I see for this summit is a general outline of an agreement that identifies denuclearization as the end goal of a process to be determined,” said Suzanne DiMaggio, a senior fellow at the think tank New America who facilitated the Trump administration’s first talks with North Korea in 2017, as reported by ABC News.
The next step on the road to better lines of diplomatic communication between the adversaries, DiMaggio said, would be the sending of North Korean diplomats to Washington and U.S. Diplomats to Pyongyang. This “would be a real demonstration of a commitment to this process, that could be done quite easily and, at the same time, have the practical point of solidifying the channels of communications as well,” she added.
Many in the Korean American Christian community are hopeful that some good will come out of the landmark meetings.
“God is answering our prayers,” said Christine Colligan, co-president of the Korean American Parents Association of Greater New York, as reported by NBC News.
“If at a minimum we can, out of this summit, establish some sort of presence in North Korea, where we allow the older generation that have been separated to be reunited, I think when the world sees that there are people on the ground that have been separated for decades, family members, that is the type of people-to-people diplomacy that would be very effective,” said Assemblyman Ron Kim, a Democrat and New York’s only Korean-American state legislator.
“It takes multiple administrations, timing, the right stakeholders,” the assemblyman added. “I think South Korean President Moon played a tremendous role in facilitating the right environment for diplomacy.”
South Korean president Moon has said that the “fate and the future of the Korean Peninsula hinge” on the meeting in Singapore. If that is not a call to prayer, I don’t know what is! Make no mistake about it, this is a big deal.