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The US-North Korean Summit: What Happened and What Is Yet To Come?

Minutes ago, US President Donald Trump declared that the US will end “war games” on the Korean peninsula and that the USA is “prepared to start a new history” with the North Korean regime.

However, it was solely a year ago that President Trump threatened North Korean leader Kim Jung-Un with “fire & fury like the world has never seen” if North Korea would fire a missile towards the United States. Several months later, on September 19th, 2017, Mr Trump even threatened and belittled Kim Jung-Un by calling him “rocket man” who is “on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime” in front of the UN General Assembly.

Now, almost a year later, and after months of exchanging insults and threats of nuclear annihilation drama, President Trump and Kim Jung-Un met for a five-hour long historical summit in Singapore to rekindle diplomatic ties and bring an end to the North Korean Nuclear programme.

The historic handshake of the two leaders took place at the Capella luxury hotel on Singapore’s island Sentosa and ended with a written agreement from both sides – committing to "the complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula" and the establishment of "new relations" between Washington and Pyongyang.

The joint agreement read: “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.”

While President Trump described the agreement as “very comprehensive” and that it would “take care of a very big and very dangerous problem of the world”, experts believe that it will take several more meetings to ensure the irreversible destruction of the North Korean nuclear arsenal.

Also, it must be clarified that Kim Jung-Un seeks firm assurance that he will not be toppled by the US when he abandons his nuclear programme; which will play an essential part in the treaty’s realisation.

Another critique toward the agreement came from several media outlets such as the Guardian which were doubtful that the deal showed any form of advancement or change compared to prior statements made in 1994 and 2005 which contained similar promises.

Nevertheless, taking a positive stance toward the signed agreement, both countries decided to meet again in the near future through senior official meetings – opening up the diplomatic channel on both sides. Furthermore, also the tone from President Trump towards Kim Jung-Un has massively changed since his “fire & fury” statement - saying that the US and the DPRK (Democratic Republic of Korea) “will have a terrific relationship […] no doubt”.

Already on the Saturday before the summit, President Trump stated that he would know “within the first minute” if Kim Jung-Un would be a reliable negotiating partner on the summit. Perhaps with a pre-set mind, Donald Trump quickly became convinced about Kim and described the North Korean leader as a “very talented man” who “loved his country very much”. He even spoke of a “special bond” with Kim Jung-Un and tentatively invited him to the White House; making the continuously changing US-North Korean relationship almost like a soap opera.

Though, such charming talks backfired as quick as President Trump could say them. The conservative-leaning Naval War college Professor Tom Nichols, for instance, tweeted earlier this morning that he “just watched a completely clueless President proclaim a special bond with one of the most ruthless murderers in the world, whom he thinks is “a talented man” who “loves his country.”

Also, progressive Peter Singer from the New American foundation tweeted that “You gotta give up something to get nothing. The new Art of the Deal”

Conversely, however, it was not only President Trump who has been charming. Also, Kim Jung-Un sounded rather positive stating that “We’ve decided to leave the past behind” and that “the world will see major changes”. Furthermore, he stated at the press conference that “The old practices and prejudices worked against us” but that the DPRK and the USA have finally made it this far.

Now, the question remains if the statement is realisable. The attention slowly shifts to the future and onto how to build the necessary framework for making the signed agreement reality.

For Washington, the statement contained guideposts for how North Korea could cease its weapons programme while for Pyongyang, the agreement means the commitment towards denuclearisation.

Problematically, the bilateral agreement between the US and North Korea does not clarify the meaning of denuclearisation. Thus, Beatrice Fihn, head of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) tweeted that “We support diplomacy and peaceful solutions. But there is no agreement on nuclear disarmament and this all looked more like a big welcome party to the nuclear armed club.”

Additionally, for North Korea, the dismantling and destroying of test facilities, reactors, and missiles are critical stages which do not only cost money but also, raise the question of how the regime can close its illicit financial network of financing such facilities in the first place.

It is therefore yet to see how the historical agreement will play out in the future. However, for the US, one thing is clear: “As negotiations now advance, there is only one acceptable final outcome: complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization"

"Only time will tell if North Korea is serious this time, and in the meantime we must continue to apply maximum economic pressure"

"The road ahead is a long one, but today there is hope that the president has put us on a path to lasting peace in the Korean peninsula.”

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