I waited a week to give my observations on the summit meeting between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. A media frenzy surrounded the summit but now it is off the front pages and web headlines.
Here are the four points that the two leaders agreed upon in the signed communique.
The United States and the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, a.k.a. North Korea) commit to establish new U.S.- DPRK relations in accordance with the desire of the peoples of the two countries for peace and prosperity.
The United States and the DPRK will join their efforts to build a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean peninsula.
Reaffirming the April, 27, 2018 Panmunjom Declaration, the DPKR commits to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.
The United States and the DPKR commit to recovering POW/MIA remains, including the immediate repatriation of those already identified.
Apparently, there were other items of agreement not included in the communique. It would appear that President Trump committed the United States to guarantee the security of North Korea. What this guarantee means, remains to be seen. I’m sure it does not involve the same kind of guarantee we give to South Korea.
President Trump also agreed to cancel some impending joint military exercises between United States and South Korean forces. He claimed it would save money but also did admit that the exercises could be viewed as “provocative.” Trump critics on both the left and the right in America were shocked at the President’s use of the word, “provocative.” Why is it hard to imagine that a North Korean dictator might regard a display of American military might just a few hundred miles away from his border as provocative? After all, doesn’t the American media routinely claim that Trump is a madman.
On the contrary, I was impressed by President Trump’s behavior both during and after the summit. It must have been a grueling ordeal for a seventy -year old man but he appeared calm, reasonable and statesmanlike.
In the first place, he gave no bragging assurances about the outcome of the summit. He said it would take time and considerable effort to achieve the goals outlined in the communique. The fact that he left the future negotiations in the hands of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was assuring. Pompeo certainly has the qualifications and experience to be an outstanding chief diplomat.
I was also impressed by Trump’s behavior and statements in the press conference that followed the meeting with Kim. I was able to see most of the conference on C-Span and Trump handled himself extremely well. He looked tired but he was confident and assured as he took many questions from a media cohort that resembled a pack of jackals.
If memory serves correctly, I believe that President Obama hardly ever gave press conferences, and that when he did speak in public it was usually with a tele-prompter. Trump answered every question off the cuff with ease and clarity. He felt so confident that he even extended the time allotted for questions.
I can’t remember the questions or his actual replies but he made sense. Before the summit, Democrat critics like Connecticut’s junior senator, Chris Murphy, claimed that Trump was unprepared for such a high level meeting. He hardly seemed unprepared to me and no one seems to be making the charge anymore.
I do vividly remember one statement that really went to the heart of the matter. He noted that there are 28 Million people living in Seoul, the capital of South Korea. For someone who is often portrayed as being heartless, it was very interesting to hear his concern for the people of that city which is three times the size of New York city. Seoul is less than 30 miles from the so-called de-militarized border between North and South. Just across the border are missiles which could annihilate the city and its inhabitants.
In that brief statement Trump indicated what the summit was all about and that other concerns were petty. He seemed to understand that it’s not important that he appears on stage with Kim or what flags are displayed. It’s not important if Trump wins a Nobel Prize. President Obama won one for doing practically nothing. The lives of millions of people are at stake.
The Wall Street Journal did run a lead editorial this week warning that President Trump had given away too much. Only time will tell but it doesn’t seem to me that delaying military exercises while waiting for the outcome of negotiations is giving away that much.
It is not hard to imagine why Kim Jong Un would find these exercises provocative and threatening. He sits on a very precarious throne and must certainly be aware of what happened to Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, and Saddam Hussein in Iraq.