Just two weeks after the unprecedented sit-down between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un was announced, Trump issued a letter stating that the summit had been cancelled, citing “tremendous anger and open hostility” as his primary reason for withdrawal.
On June 1st, the summit was announced to be back on, after talks between Trump and senior North Korean envoy General Kim Yong-chol. Presidential counsellor Kellyanne Conway is now telling reporters President Trump is already considering a follow-up meeting with Kim Jong-un, even before the first summit has begun. According to ABC news, Trump’s lawyer even claimed Kim Jong-un “begged on his hands and knees” to reinstate the Singapore summit.
Will the summit happen? What will it achieve? Skepticism surrounding the outcomes of the summit have understandably risen. According to Channel News Asia, Trump has retreated from his demand for Pyongyang’s swift, complete denuclearization and has instead opted for the more modest goal of “signing a document” to bring the technical state of hostilities to a close. Experts have warned that US leverage in future negotiations will be eroded if nuclear issues are left unaddressed at the summit.
According to Fox News, the whole ordeal has kept South Korea on edge and they are now awaiting the historic summit with both hope and doubt. The South Korean government has been cautious in its comments about the constant shifts in stances. With South Korean President Moon Jae-in using the breakthrough with North Korea as the centrepiece of his administration, it is clear that a lot rides on the success of the summit.
Some academics also believe it is critical for the summit to go well. According to an associate professor of East Asian studies at Yonsei University, it will give “more room for President Moon and Chairman Kim Jong Un to move forward in terms of inter-Korean reconciliation and cooperation.” Many people remain optimistic, with hopes of seeing a formal declaration to end the Korean War at the end of the summit. Others like Professor Im Yang-bin believe the summit should be postponed and the focus should instead be on eliminating nuclear weapons in North Korea.
The nuclear war threat in the Korean Peninsula has dominated headlines since last year. Though some argue that allowing states to have nuclear weapons creates a deterrence effect, the threat of North Korea starting a nuclear war outbreak has been concerning. Whether or not the summit will achieve denuclearization, the more modest goal of a formal declaration to end the Korean war – or nothing at all – represents a major breakthrough in the international community’s continuing efforts to curb nuclear proliferation.