Need to Know: Trump-Kim Summit Chock-Full of Pleasantries, Lacking in Substance
After much fanfare, the two controversial world leaders signed a joint statement calling for peace, but made no concrete steps to secure North Korean denuclearization.
Published on June 13, 2018

Photo via Donald J. Trump

The historic meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un went off without a hitch this week, with both leaders smiling, chatting, and appearing cordial, despite a lack of firm agreement on Trump’s professed goal of denuclearizing the East Asian nation.

According to reports from around the globe, the two controversial leaders met Tuesday on a resort island off the southern coast of Singapore and became fast friends. The duo shook hands, smiled, and presented friendly body language throughout the five-hour pow-wow. They shared a lunch of crispy pork, beef short ribs, and prawns as Trump showed Kim a heavily-produced video presentation of what North Korea could be with the development of modern train systems, beachside hotels, and other trappings of Western prosperity. “I think he loved it,” Trump said of the video.

But while flash-bulbs popped and Trump offered Kim a tour of his bulletproof limousine, the two failed to secure any concrete plan for North Korean denuclearization or the containment of the country’s arsenal of ballistic missiles — the weapons that most readily threaten South Korea. Trump and Kim did sign a joint statement calling for “total denuclearization” of both North and South Korea, but did not outline any timetable or plan of action to execute that goal.

Still, Trump left the encounter raving, and took to Twitter to assure the American people that they could “sleep well” because he had neutralized any threat of nuclear war.

“Got along great with Kim Jong-un who wants to see wonderful things for his country,” Trump tweeted. “As I said earlier today: Anyone can make war, but only the most courageous can make peace!”

Trump also agreed to cease demonstrations of American military force in conjunction with South Korea, calling the military exercises “war games.”

For diplomatic experts, though, the summit was historic not only in its concessions to a dictator with a laundry list of human rights violations on his rap sheet, but also for the lack of substance in the leaders’ agreement.

“This is what North Korea has wanted from the beginning, and I cannot believe that our side allowed it,” Joseph Y. Yun, a former State Department official who has negotiated with North Korea told the New York Times. “I am quite simply surprised that months of negotiations produced so little.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will reportedly continue negotiations with North Korea later this week, but the Trump administration has not indicated any timeline for those discussions either.

By the time he returned home, Trump remained confident about his abilities to broker further peace talks and denuclearization treaties with Kim, but held his tongue short of any guarantees.

“I think, honestly, I think [Kim’s] going to do these things,” Trump said. “I may be wrong. I mean, I may stand before you in six months and say ‘Hey, I was wrong.’ I don’t know that I’ll ever admit that, but I’ll find some kind of excuse.”

Zach Harris
Zach Harris is a writer based in Philadelphia whose work has appeared on Noisey, First We Feast, and Jenkem Magazine. You can find him on Twitter @10000youtubes complaining about NBA referees.
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