In the past few months, the global political scenario seems to have taken a rather unexpected turn. Last month, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived in Pyongyang to mark a new era in US-North Korea relations as he announced a possible meeting between POTUS Donald Trump and North Korean Leader Kim Jong-Un in Singapore.
Amid speculation of whether a summit would really happen, last Friday President Trump confirmed the meeting will, in fact, take place on June 12th, after receiving a personal visit from Vice Chairman Kim Yong Chol. A week earlier, President Trump had called off the meeting, citing “open hostility” from the North Korean leadership.
Two global leaders, who had previously shared only threats and insults like middle-school kids, put the past behind and now promise to build bridges over extremely troubled, shark-infested waters. In fact, Kim Jong-Un—who had previously been extremely hostile towards South Korea, US, and other allies and had refused to engage in talks—has already laid the foundation for these diplomatic bridges.
On May 24th, foreign journalists at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site reported that the testing facilities had been dismantled. Destruction of the nuclear testing tunnels at Punggye-ri is a demonstrable, tangible step toward the denuclearization goal that leader Kim Jong-un agreed to at the Panmunjom Summit between the two Koreas in April. However, North Korea failed to invite experts from the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization to observe the tunnel collapse. Not doing so signaled disinterest in verification standards that will be required for any denuclearisation agreement with the US.
US involvement in the denuclearization of a hostile nation is not new. Over the years, it has caused political turmoil, economic sanctions, and even toppling of regimes in countries like Libya and Iraq. In early May, President Trump unilaterally pulled out of the historic Iran Nuclear Deal made by the preceding Obama administration, risking widespread effects on international relations and the global economy. Moreover, this also cast a shadow on the denuclearization, peace, and stability discussions in the Korean Peninsula as it questioned the worth of the United State’s word and commitments.
In wake of all the political and economic drama surrounding the US withdrawal from the Iran Nuclear Deal, President Donald Trump continued to reassure his North Korean counterpart that if he delivers on the promise of “comprehensive, verifiable, and irreversible” nuclear disarmament, North Korea will have a booming, exuberant economy and complete political autonomy. This came after National Security Advisor John Bolton‘s suggestions that Libya could serve as a model for persuading North Korea.
While a meeting is an important first step towards improving relations between the two nations, the unpredictable and volatile nature of both leaders makes it almost impossible to predict any outcomes. Only time will tell what the summit will bring for the Korean Peninsula and for the world. For now, all we can hope for is good diplomacy and realistic goals that kick off a new era of nuclear non-proliferation.