Takeaways from the Singapore Summit
The “historic” summit between the United States and North Korea was over in the blink of an eye. It actually caught me by surprise as I was so fixated on the date June 12th, that that was the date it would be taking place on in Singapore. With me being in the United States, most if not all of the summit was on the 11th. Now that pen has hit paper, let’s take a second to reflect on what happened.
First things first: like all summits, conferences, state dinners etc., it was all a big show. To say that this was much more than a move for optics would just be patently false. Events like this throw red meat to the media wolves, giving them something to write and talk about with photo-ops serving as visual aids. Meanwhile, all the actual dealings take place in smoke filled rooms behind closed doors.
The provision in the deal that has been hogging most of the headlines is North Korea’s reaffirmation of the Panmunjom Declaration. In other words, their commitment towards the complete denuclearization. However, history tells us that we should be weary. Similar agreements were made, and subsequently backed out of by North Korea, under Bill Clinton and George Bush.
And can you blame them? Why would a country under siege want to take the card of Mutually Assured Destruction, their greatest defense, off of the table? Expect these sorts of outcomes so long as thugs, not diplomats, are at the head of US foreign policy.
Commenting on the specifics of the deal is a near impossible task, because there simply aren’t any. I urge everyone to go and read the full text of agreement. Buzz words like “peace and “prosperity” are peppered into vague statements that mean nothing. This bolsters my previous point that the true agreements will be made far from the view of the public.
For example, the first point of the agreement reads:
The United States and the DPRK commit to establish new US-DPRK relations in accordance with the desire of the peoples of the two countries for peace and prosperity.
Unless the ruling elite plan on conducting a poll of the American people on how they should carry on with North Korea, this provision means nothing. The second point of the agreements reads very similarly:
The United States and the DPRK will join their efforts to build a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.
This has been interpreted to be hinting at a unification of the Koreas, however, like so much of the declaration, it’s so vague that it is hard to tell what is actually being said. I have already addressed the third point of the deal but it was actually the fourth point of the deal that stood out to me the most…
The United States and the DPRK commit to recovering POW/MIA remains, including the immediate repatriation of those already identified.
This provision is uncontroversial and should be something that everyone can agree would be a good thing if done.While I can’t fathom what either leader could potentially have against it, such polarizing figures reaching a point of universal common ground is, indeed, noteworthy.
If I was in the United States’ position, my focus would have been significantly different. Rather than emphasizing denuclearization, my main goals would be the unification of the Korean peninsula through some sort of joint governing body in which both parties have a say, and increasing safety regulations for North Korean weapons testing. This approach would have been vastly superior for a variety of reasons. Perhaps most notably, in that it begins negotiations from a position of alliance and cooperation.
It would be wonderful if this summit marked the beginning of an alliance, or at the very least, an easing of tensions with North Korea. However, I wouldn’t hold your breath. So long as bloodthirsty warmongers like John Bolton, Mike Pompeo, Donald Trump and others are at the head of the operation, peace looks like little more than a pipedream.