And the biggest global political event of the year has been canceled. It was announced that Trump has canceled the much awaited USA-North Korea summit in Singapore citing ‘tremendous anger and open hostility’. So how did we get here?
The world celebrated upon the announcement of the Trump-Kim summit in the second week of May. The announcement was so huge that is garnered praise from the Foreign Minister of Russia and the General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, Xi Jinping (keep in mind the China and Russia have historically been foes of USA) among many other prominent figures. Everything was sailing smoothly early on but the situation soon (less than 5 days later actually) started to deteriorate. Here’s a timeline:
- 10 May 2018: Summit was announced
- 14 May 2018: USA secretary of defense and Vice President talk of using the Libya approach with North Korea (The Libyan civil war famously ended with the execution of incumbent leader Gadaffi).
- 15 May 2018: North Korea angered by joint military exercises by South Korea and USA,
- 21 May 2018: USA military makes a special coin with the silhouettes of Trump and Kim (which one can still purchase at a discounted price now).
- 21-24 May 2018: Increasing hostility, threats of attacks (and cancellation from NK) from both sides.
- 24 May 2018: Trump cancels summit citing anger and hostility.
The cancellation rather surprisingly was handled pretty gracefully by North Korea with the country even complimenting Trump’s bold decision in its official statement. Trump responded well to the statement by sparking up talks of rescheduling the summit during an address given at the US Naval Academy.
While many called the summit a masterstroke in diplomacy by South Korea and the US, political observers had remained wary of it. The core issue with the summit was that North Korea and the US had completely different expectations. The US wanted to push for complete denuclearization of North Korea while North Korea wanted to be recognized as a legitimate nuclear power. In fact, North Korea even pointed out that they wouldn’t be interested in any high-level talks if the US pushed for complete nuclear abandonment.
It is also important to note that North Korea has been requesting an audience with the president of the United States for around 2 decades now. The White House and media bodies spun the reports as North Korea conceding to US demands when it seems to be quite the opposite. Moreover, both Trump and Kim are known to be liars who choose fiction over fact for personal glorification.
Was the summit a diplomatic failure? Yes, but was it unnecessary? Definitely not! The world today is filled with conflict and inequality, any step taken towards resolution of conflict especially in the Korean peninsula is always welcome. North Korea benefitted greatly by the announcement of the summit which led to the country getting concessions even though the summit was canceled and even the global perception of North Korea has improved, it now has better relations with South Korea and the US. For now, at least there is a little less conflict in this world.