Sohn: Clinging to hope with North Korea

Sohn: Clinging to hope with North Korea

June 13th, 2018 by Pam Sohn in Opinion Times

President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un of North Korea leave a document-signing ceremony in Singapore. (Anthony Wallace/Pool via The New York Times)


We have to hope for the best.

We have to pray the reality-show handshakes and photo opportunities move beyond political hype to become reasonable, verifiable progress of real and verifiable denuclearization in North Korea.

We have to hope that President Donald Trump has done something right, even though we fear he's given away the store.

He is our president, after all.

But this is our country. Our home. Our planet.

Yet, could someone please explain how halting American war games held routinely with South Korea because they are, in Trump's words, "expensive" and "provocative" (he borrowed Kim Jong Un's propaganda word) is in the interest of either America or South Korea? Trump didn't even mention that giveaway with either the Pentagon or South Korean President Moon Jae-in. They were stunned.

Would someone please explain the cherry Trump plopped atop of that ice cream when he added during his post-summit press conference that he still hoped at some point to withdraw the 28,500 American troops from their protection detail in South Korea.

For its part, North Korea merely "reaffirmed" a goal of "denuclearization," which it first announced in 1992.

Trump called the statement he signed with Chairman Kim of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea "comprehensive." The New York Times termed it "strikingly spare."

The statement, in its entirety, is about 400 words — about the length of this editorial.

Denuclearization is mentioned three times: "President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un conducted a comprehensive, in-depth, and sincere exchange of opinions on the issues related to the establishment of new U.S.-DPRK relations and the building of a lasting and robust peace regime on the Korean Peninsula. 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."

The statement goes to say the new U.S. and North Korea relations "can promote" the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula" and the DPRK commits "to work toward" denuclearization.

We don't know what Trump's "security guarantees" are. There is absolutely no mention of verification procedures for denuclearization. There is a mention of "follow-on negotiations" to be led by the U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and a relevant high-level North Korean official "at the earliest possible date" to "implement the outcomes" of the summit.

Kim got what he wanted. The president met with him, even praised him, made a pact with him — and made no mention of the fact that the Trump administration has previously said Kim had his own half-brother killed and enslaves his people.

All that said, imagine the storylines Kim will go home to; "Kim forces U.S. president to cancel war games, accept North Korea as a nuclear equal and to provide security guarantees."

In return we got Kim's commitment "to work toward" denuclearization.

It seems the barest of a beginning.

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