TENUOUS TRUCE

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 13 Jun 2018 11:10:00

MAY there be no doubt at any place about the tentative truce achieved by United States President Mr. Donald Trump and North Korean President Mr. Kim Jong-un at their much-publicised summit at Singapore. Given the nature of diplomatic endeavours by the two leaders, this particular exchange of promises between them is quite likely to be tentative rather than a confirmed arrangement that would endure itself through thick and thin. For Mr. Kim Jong-un to agree to a complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula in exchange of certain security guarantees by the United States, does not mean any alteration of his script. For Mr. Donald Trump to agree to offer certain security guarantees to North Korea, also does not tantamount to a change in his original script. Despite this, it must be said that there would be a fair amount of suspicion on both sides about each other’s intentions. To that extent, the truce achieved by the two sides would stand on thin ice.

In the run up to the summit, the world saw a fuming Mr. Donald Trump threaten the cancellation of the meet. He kept airing his doubts about the willingness of Mr. Kim Jong-un to agree for a total denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula. The North Korean leader had begun by stating that he would start dismantling of his country’s nuclear testing site on an immediate basis. He had also agreed to let South Korean experts to observe the process of dismantling. For Mr. Trump, however, all that talk did not amount to much. In tune with the presidential suspicion, American spy agencies, too, worked overtime to check if North Korea was serious about the promise its supremo was giving. Mr. Trump’s travel to Singapore for the summit depended almost wholly upon Intelligence confirmation about what was happening at the North Korean nuclear testing site.

There are reasons to believe that the US President got a favourable report from Intelligence, only after which he agreed to keep the summit on. But the atmosphere in the US during the run up to the summit was fraught with suspicion. After the summit, too, a similar mindset might prevail in Washington DC at least for sometime.  Given the initial tough stand the US took about North Korean nuclearisation programme and its assertion that it has developed intercontinental ballistic missiles that could target any American city, it was preposterous to expect the summit to produce very good report right the first time. Yet, it appears from whatever came through the closed doors and open statements post-summit that the American President agreed -- at least by the face value -- that his North Korean counterpart was serious about what he said. The signing of the pact came only after that.

No matter its tentativeness, the Singapore summit did produce some positive result that would assure the world that there would not be a possibility of a nuclear confrontation between the two nations on the far sides of the global map. But when the two leaders were exchanging diatribes a few months ago, the world appeared threatened by a possibility of a nuclear hostility that would drag on for a while. Now, at least, that possibility stands eliminated. Given the nature of hostility and suspicion that prevailed between the United States and North Korea, even this is no mean an achievement.

Yet, the truce would be a tentative development that would need a lot of work by both, the US and North Korea, to dispel any doubts about mutual intentions. A lot of confidence-building activity, too, will have to be undertaken by the two nations, plus by South Korea as well. For, the very expanse of the proposed denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula is massive, and it will test the patience of the whole world.