Photo Credit: CNN
On May 10th, Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong applauded the announcement of a summit set to for June 12th in Singapore between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and U.S. President Donald J. Trump, calling it a “significant step on the path to peace” (Straits Times). The announcement came after months of tension over North Korea’s steps toward acquiring the resources to develop and deliver nuclear weapons. The two leaders exchanged angry statements over Pyongyang’s testing of nuclear weapons, long-range and intercontinental ballistic missiles. But US President Donald Trump announced the date and location for the meeting on Twitter saying, “The highly anticipated meeting between Kim Jong Un and myself will take place in Singapore on June 12th. We will both try to make it a very special moment for World Peace!” The announcement has the potential to lead to progress on questions of peace on the Korean peninsula and the elimination of nuclear threats to global stability.
Given that the Korean War ended in the 1950s with a truce and not an official peace treaty, the war between North and South Korea has technically never come to an end. Following a summit between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong Un in Panmunjom, the village in the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea, it was announced that the two leaders had agreed to take steps toward the development and implementation of a permanent peace treaty that would supersede the 65-year-old armistice. Following this summit, preparations for the Trump-Kim meeting began to gain momentum. South Korean officials expressed their optimism in the wake of the summit saying, “We welcome the North Korea-US summit to be held in Singapore on June 12. We hope the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, as well as permanent peace on the peninsula, will successfully come about through this summit,” (Reuters). Dialogue between the two Koreas has played an important role in conjuring the political will in Washington and Pyongyang to engage in dialogue. South Korea will continue to play a crucial role in talks aimed at reducing tension on, and the denuclearization of, the Korean peninsula.
Kim Jong Un, the country’s supreme ruler announced his willingness to take steps toward the advancement of global peace during his New Year’s Day address to the North Korean people. He expressed his willingness to engage in talks with South Korea and potentially other representatives from around the world in exchange for an international commitment to not engage in steps to overthrow the North Korean regime. The process gained further traction when high profile South Korean officials and Kim’s sister engaged in dialogue in South Korea during the PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games. Since then, multiple meetings, both public and private, have occurred between Chinese and South Korean officials as well as officials from the government of North Korea. The Trump-Kim summit will mark the first time a sitting US president and the leader of North Korea will engage in face- to-face talks. The United States and North Korea have yet to establish diplomatic ties.
According to a statement from the White House, Singapore was selected due to its neutrality and stability, each of which will preserve both leaders’ security. The country is seen as neutral territory, though it has close economic ties with the United States. The trip to Singapore will be the farthest Kim Jong Un has traveled from North Korea since becoming the country’s leader in 2011. Recent reports said that President Trump would have preferred holding the meeting in the demilitarized zone at Panmunjom between North and South Korea. Singapore arose as a host option once Trump gave in to his aides’ concerns about his security. The Singapore summit announcement came after three American detainees returned to the US from North Korea following a second trip by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Pyongyang to finalize summit plans.
Mike Pompeo and Kim Jong Un. Photo: The White House/Getty Images
If held, the talks will take place following 20 ballistic missile tests and one nuclear test conducted by North Korea throughout 2017. During the last six months, North Korean officials have made numerous claims that some of the missiles that the country developed were capable of reaching the US mainland. This raised US national security concerns as well as those of US partners and allies in the region. Statements suggest North Korean nuclear advances strengthened US and international resolve to engage with Pyongyang through sanctions and diplomacy and prevent the country from becoming a bonafide threat to international peace and security. The US-North Korean talks, in addition to the potential progress they may enable, are unprecedented. It would be a shame for an opportunity of such potential to go to waste as a result of American or North Korean obstinance. Efforts from the US, China, and South Korea, aided by indispensable international cooperation, have so far proven effective. They will be in the future as well provided all parties are clear-eyed about their agendas, willing to embrace a spirit of compromise, and determined to cooperate in order to advance mutually compatible interests.