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Following history-making talks in Singapore, Kim made non-specific commitments about giving up Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons, while Trump pledged to end US war games with South Korea that North Korea felt threatened by, and virtually assured the dictator a lifetime’s security to rule.
Trump himself called the exercises ”very provocative,” ”inappropriate” and a waste of money in light of the breakthrough the two men had made.
”Yesterday’s conflict does not have to be tomorrow’s war,” The U.S President said at a news conference following more than four hours of talks with Kim. ”We’re ready to write a new chapter between our nations.”
It was an astonishing breakthrough for two men who had called each other names – ”dotard” and ”little rocket man” among them – and threatened to nuke each other’s countries only a few weeks ago.
”President Trump committed to provide security guarantees to the DPRK, and Chairman Kim Jong-un reaffirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” read the most consequential sentence in the 400-word declaration.
Most experts and analysts said Kim came away a runaway victor from the summit with the US giving up too much. But Trump was sanguine about the eventual outcome, insisting ”I think the meeting was every bit as good for the United States as it was for North Korea.”
Amid skepticism about Kim’s non-specific pledge to denuclearize, Trump said details will be worked out in future talks, and ”We will do it as fast as it can mechanically and physically be done.”
”Today is the beginning of an arduous process. Our eyes are wide open. But peace is always worth the effort,” he said.
The US President disclosed he had raised human rights issues and sanctions against North Korea would remain in place for now subject to Kim’s follow through on denuclearization.
But the major concession he made was in canning joint exercises with South Korea, meant to reassure the countries against the North’s depredations. A blindsided Seoul said it is still trying to decipher what Trump meant.
In Washington, the liberal illuminati and traditional establishment types could barely contain their disbelief and skepticism at what the maverick US President had pulled off.
While some advised caution vis-a-vis the outcome, others railed about Trump making peace with an odious dictator with an appalling human rights record.
But grudging acknowledgement came from a few Democratic lawmakers. ”This is historic. For the sake of peace, let’s hope these denuclearization talks lead to success,” tweeted Tulsi Gabbard, Hawaii’s Hindu-American Congresswoman.
More hardline critics were unimpressed. In a meme showing Trump glad-handling Kim juxtaposed against the hostile face-off between the US President and other G-7 leaders, one critic noted, ”We’ve seen it time and time again from this President. He treats foes like friends, and friends like foes.”
Earlier, in carefully choreographed stagecraft that fronted for behind-the-scenes statecraft, the two temperamental men walked towards each other shortly after 9 am. Singapore time to clasp hangs in a historic gesture to mark the first meeting even between leaders of the two nations. Trump was more effusive and touchy-feely, but Kim eventually reciprocated, having realized his (and his forbears’) long-cherished dream of parlaying on equal terms with the world’s most powerful country.
The sight of two men palling around was galling to many critics back in the US and in Europe who pointed to the irony of Trump denigrating leaders of democratic countries at the G-7 while cozying up to strongmen such as Kim, China’s Xi Jinping, and Russia’s Vladimir Putin.
But Trump, who came to the White House pledging to tear up established and conventional norms of governance and diplomacy, exulted in his moment of triumph, rubbing the critics’ and predecessors’ nose in the ground.
”I believe he’s going to live up to that document,” he said of the joint declaration that many critics found wanting. ”He (Kim) wants to do that. This isn’t the past. This isn’t another administration that never got it started and therefore never got it done,” he added in a swipe at the Obama and Bush administration that had continued unremitting US skepticism and hostility towards Pyongyang.
The US president told reporters that he was convinced that Kim was serious when he agreed to dismantle a sophisticated missile engine testing site. At the same time, he conceded there are no guarantees that Kim would dismantle ”a very substantial arsenal.”
”Can you ensure anything?” he asked. ”All I can say is: They want to make a deal. I may be wrong. I may stand before you in six months and say, “Hey, I was wrong.” ‘
He then joked, ”I don’t know that I’ll ever admit that… I’ll find some kind of an excuse,” but his basic contention was that self-doubt and skepticism were not grounds enough to stop engagement and negotiations.
”Anyone can make war, but only the most courageous can make peace. The current state of affairs cannot continue forever,” Trump said in a rare moment when he has sounded statesmanlike.