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DONALD TRUMP declared that “excitement was in the air” over his summit meeting with Kim Jong Un, but such excitement is tinged with trepidation.
A joint agreement guaranteeing a nuclear-free Korean peninsula, a formal end to the Korean War and a copper-bottomed guarantee of no invasion of North Korea by the US or its surrogates is certainly worth talking about.
It would meet the needs of the Korean people and could open the way to national reunification, which the vast majority of Koreans want.
But, until reality dictates otherwise, a nagging doubt remains that Washington — especially the plethora of neoconservative cold warriors surrounding the president — has something more sinister in mind.
The likes of John Bolton and Mike Pompeo find it difficult to talk in anything but ultimatums, demanding “the Libya model” as the basis for Pyongyang’s agreement to renounce its nuclear weapons programme.
Kim will not need reminding that Muammar Gadaffi’s acceptance of complete verifiable and irreversible renunciation of Libya’s weapons of mass destruction didn’t lead to an era of reconciliation and economic co-operation with the imperialist powers he cosied up to.
Kisses and cuddles with Tony Blair in his Bedouin tent in the desert ushered in regime change, assisted by French and British air force attacks, Gadaffi’s capture and murder and Libya’s reduction to a war-torn shambles.
Tehran has not been slow to warn North Korea’s dynastic leader to be on guard, noting that Trump doesn’t pay too much importance to solemn international accords if he finds fault with them.
His decisions to walk away from the Paris climate deal and the Iran nuclear agreement and to enrage allies in Canada and western Europe by persisting with his plans to engage in a trade war with them as an expression of his US-first foreign policy can surely not fill Koreans, or anyone else, with confidence that the Singapore discussions are guaranteed to be successful.
Neither Kim nor Trump is renowned for diplomacy: Kim for a lack of diplomatic partners and Trump for a lack of so many qualities.
While both men were raised in luxury light years away from the lives enjoyed/endured by those they govern, Kim may well be constrained by a political-military system overseen by the Workers Party of Korea and the armed forces.
This applies less, however, to Trump, whose caprices, born of vast wealth and an inbred air of entitlement and expressed in often contradictory tweets, have frustrated and infuriated G7 heads of government.
Trump’s last-minute announcement that his travel plans have changed, truncating the length of his stay in Singapore, have once again left commentators guessing.
His details-free assertion that nuclear negotiations have moved “more quickly than expected,” allowing him to return home after his meeting with Kim, could mean something very positive — or the opposite.
Similarly, Trump’s prediction that he will judge the negotiating lie of the land when he meets Kim by “just my touch, my feel” is so incalculable that it risks a repeat of his G7 performance.
There he signed off a joint statement before retracting, calling Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “dishonest” and “weak” and keeping up a succession of angry tweets from Singapore when he’s supposed to be preparing for a crucial meeting.
The best to be hoped for from tomorrow’s summit is probably a photo-op and a broad-terms acceptance of the most desirable outcome, leaving details to be inked in by diplomats, though lurking in the shadows will be Trump’s spectre lurking, fingers poised over his keypad.
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