Trump-Kim Summit – “Not impressed”

Reuters photo



Tom Arms



“Not impressed,” was the verdict of John Everard, former British Ambassador to North Korea on the Trump-Kim meet in Singapore.


Speaking on Britain’s LBC radio station, the veteran diplomat asserted that US President Donald Trump had given away “the family silver” in return for a “piece of political theatre.”


Ambassador Everard’s comments were echoed by other commentators. A Times editorial, for example, described the meeting as “quixotic” that will take some proving.


The criticisms may have at least some of their roots in Donald Trump’s ill treatment of his G7 allies only days before. Europe and Canada in particular are not at the moment disposed to give the pro-Russian, Euro-bashing, climate change denying and protectionist Mr Trump much in the way of support or credit.


A number have pointed out that the president achieved little more than a handshake and a great photo for his picture album.


That is perhaps unfair. Donald Trump has taken great strides to bringing a dangerous rogue state into the international community. He has also secured a promise from hereditary dictator Kim Jong-un that he will dispose of the nuclear weapons which he was threatening to dispatch to Japan, South Korea, Guam, Hawaii and the American west coast.


But what has the president given up for these not insignificant achievements?


For a start, he has bestowed international credibility on a criminal regime with arguably the worst human rights record in the world. Human Rights Watch estimates that there are 120,000 political prisoners in North Korean labour camps and that conditions in these camps rival those of the Nazi concentration camps. Many argue that the entire country is one huge labour camp of 25.37 million souls, minus a few high-living members of the Kim dynasty.


It should also be noted that Chairman Kim (whom Trump referred to as “talented”) is a murderer. He ordered the executions of both his uncle Jang Song Thaek and his half-brother Kim Jong-nam. Short of cash, he has turned North Korea into a criminal state dealing in illicit drugs and stealing funds through cyber and copyright theft.


Trump also agreed to end joint military manoeuvres between the 30,000 US troops in South Korea and the South Korean army. This was a major goal of Chairman Kim and one which Trump said he would oppose. It has left concerned the new US ambassador to South Korea, Admiral Harry Harris; Defence Secretary James “Mad Dog” Mattis”; Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Moon Jae-in. Failure to train together means that in a very short period of time the deterrent effectiveness of the US forces in South Korea will diminish to almost nothing.


So why keep them there? Well, it wasn’t mentioned in the post-summit communique, but in the follow-up press conference Trump suggested that he would like to withdraw American troops from South Korea. “It would save a lot of money,” he said.


The withdrawal of American forces from the Korean Peninsula is possibly the main objective of both North Korea and China. Forget the nuclear weapons. Following American withdrawal the North Koreans would be left with overwhelming conventional superiority. As for the Chinese, they would see it as a rollback of American influence in Asia and an opportunity to replace US hegemony on the Western rim of the Pacific.


Also not mentioned in great detail in the communique was the lifting of international sanctions against North Korea. The White House has subsequently said that sanctions would be lifted when denuclearisation was completed in 2020. The North Korean News Agency (KCNA) reported that they would be lifted immediately. The Chinese said they should be lifted now.


This difference of interpretation has the potential to wreck whatever progress was made. The North Koreans could simply stall denuclearisation until sanctions are lifted. And the Chinese could simply ignore the sanctions and start trading with North Korea tomorrow.


Finally, there is the issue of the catalyst for the Trump-Kim summit—North Korea’s nuclear weapons. Chairman Kim has committed his government to disposing of all nuclear weapons. What he cannot commit to is disposing of the knowledge that allowed his regime to develop nuclear weapons and the intercontinental ballistic missiles to deliver them. That genie is out of the bottle.


He has also shown the way for other rogue states such as Iran. If you want sanctions lifted; if you want international recognition and an engraved invitation to visit the White House; if you want the implied promise of US aid and investment. Then develop nuclear weapons and threaten to bomb America.





Tom Arms

I am a journalist, entrepreneur and historian with extensive experience in print, web and broadcast journalism. I started as a diplomatic correspondent, wrote several books (The Falklands Crisis, World Elections On File and the Encyclopedia of the Cold War), and then in 1987 started my own business (Future Events News Service, which over 25 years established itself as the world and UK media’s diary. Our strapline was: “We set the world’s news agenda.” I sold FENS in December 2012 but retained the exclusive broadcast rights to all of FENS data. To exploit these rights I set up LookAhead TV which produces unique programmes which “Broadcasts Tomorrow Today” so that viewers can “Plan to Participate.” LookAhead has appeared regularly on Vox Africa, Radio Tatras International, The Conversation and Voice of Africa Radio.

In addition to being a syndicated broadcaster and columnist on global affairs, Tom is also available for speaking engagements and can be contacted on TwitterLinkedin and email[email protected].

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1 Comment

  1. Mark Kodama June 20, at 02:11

    I respectfully disagree with the author and this is why. Yes North Korea is a cruel dictator and heads a rogue regime that is the the perpetrator of the worst kinds of human rights violations of its own people and that of its neighbors and the United States. Having said that reducing tensions on the Korean peninsula, denuclearizing the Korean nation and bringing North Korea back into the fold of the civilization is an effort worth trying for. The meeting was yes only a meeting but an important first step in what could be a major transformation in Asia and the world. The most important first goal would be to denuclearize North Korea that is permanent and verifiable. To try to do meaningfully do this all interested players are going to have to give something up to get something and the environment must be right to make this happen. The United States necessarily must tacitly recognize China hegemony over North Korea for China to support any deal. If China does not support the deal, we will have no deal. China wants a buffer state between itself and the United States and its allies. If North Korea denuclearizes itself it will be de-fanging itself of its most powerful defense so in fact it will be extremely vulnerable for a lengthy period to both China and the United States. Naturally, it must turn to China for its protection. But North Korea's real and long term security must be found in modernizing its economy and binding its commercial interests with China, South Korea, Japan, Russia and the West, ensuring prosperity and freedom for its people. So it is in its own natural self interest to denuclearize and respect human rights. The South Koreas of course want closer ties with their kinsmen and countrymen and want peace and stability in the regions as does every country, particularly all neighboring countries. Stopping the war exercises by the United States and its allies is a demand that China made and we agreed to. It makes sense because the war games are contrary to setting the right tone for further negotiations and actions. They are also unnecessary at this point because we have economic sanctions in place which is strangling North Korea. They can always be reset if needed. Also Xi and Kim need credibility to make things work on their side if they are seen as weak by their supporters they will not be able to move forward on their end with the concessions they must make to the United States and its allies. Of course human rights is important. But to inject human rights in these initial stages will likely undermine the potential for moving forward. We need to prioritize and start by de-nuclearization and then bring about other necessary changes that is in the self interest of all sides to eventually pursue.


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