Tue, Jun 12, 2018 - Page 8 News List

Singapore summit: who gets what

By Parris Chang 張旭成

After a flurry of on-again and off-again diplomatic maneuvers, and theatrics as well, US President Donald Trump’s meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore is on schedule.

In March, Trump accepted on the spot Kim’s invitation to meet, conveyed by ranking South Korean officials, surprising the visitors and White House advisers.

Trump on May 24 abruptly canceled the meeting in a letter to Kim, saying: “Based on the tremendous anger and open hostility displayed in your most recent statement, I feel it is inappropriate, as this time, to have the long-planned meeting.”

He had told the reporters the previous day that he detected a shift in Kim’s tone after the North Korean leader met for a second time with Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) in early May.

Astute dealmaker that he is, Trump did not want to allow a potential deal to slip away. So he wrote to Kim that “if you change your mind having to do with this important summit, please do not hesitate to call me or write. The world, and North Korea in particular, has lost a great opportunity for lasting peace and great prosperity and wealth.”

Kim could walk away, but did not, as he genuinely wants a meeting with Trump, the first-ever with a sitting US president. Therefore, he invited South Korean President Moon Jae-in to a secret, unannounced two-hour meeting in the truce village of Panmunjom on May 26 and told Moon that he had a “fixed will” to meet Trump.

Moon disclosed to the media at the Blue House the next day that he and Kim agreed that the summit in Singapore “must be successfully held” and he promised to “serve as a bridge” to facilitate it.

To international observers, Moon is a skillful communicator and a great facilitator who deserves most of the credit for the summit in Singapore. He deftly used the Winter Olympics at Pyeongchang to invite and befriend as well as pay for the expenses of North Korean athletes, cheerleaders, dancers and musicians.

That generosity, warmth and goodwill led to a successful inter-Korean summit on April 27 at the Peace House in Panmunjom between Moon and Kim, who became the first North Korean leader to set foot in the South.

After taking office in May last year, Moon has promoted inter-Korean peace and reconciliation, as well as promoted dialogue between the US and North Korea.

He learned his lessons from a stillborn peace initiative launched by his mentor, former South Korean president Roh Moo-hyun, a decade before. As chief of staff in the Blue House under the Roh administration from 2003 to 2008, Moon helped Roh organize negotiations with Kim’s father, then-North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, and visited Pyongyang for a summit in October 2007.

The summit ended in a peace declaration and Roh’s pledges of massive aid to North Korea.

However, these were scrapped six months later by a newly elected South Korean president from the opposition party.

Roh was his own worst enemy and undermined his own peace program at least in part by his failure to obtain support from then-US president George W. Bush. Instead, Roh was arrogant and blunt, and vowed not to “kowtow to the Americans.”

Moon is more sophisticated and accommodating in managing relations with the White House. He has closely consulted with Trump and missed no opportunity to publicly praise and credit Trump for making the current breakthrough possible.

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