On 12 June 2018, a near- impossible historic event took place, when the leaders of the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea and the United States of America met at Capella Hotel in Singapore. The agenda of the meeting was to restore peace between the two countries and in the Korean Peninsula removal of Nuclear weapons in North Korea and restoration of diplomatic ties between the two countries.
A Not-so-cordial Relationship
Historically, the relations between the two countries have been one of the most contentious in modern history. The tensions between the two countries began after the end of Korean War in 1953. The Korean War divided the Korean Peninsula into North Korea and South Korea respectively and is now separated by Korean Demilitarised Zone. North Korea became a Communist State and supported by the Soviets, while South Korea became a democracy and was supported by USA. The tense relations was a by product of the Cold War. Since the end of Cold War in 1991, the tensions have largely been defined by North Korea, conducting nuclear weapons tests and its development of long range missiles capable of striking targets thousands of kilometres away. More serious threats involved threat of striking USA and South Korea, which is US’s ally.
Little Rocket Man
Donald Trump was elected as United States’ 45th President on 20 January 2017. From the start, his administration adopted a hard line approach towards North Korea and its activities. This was highlighted after North Korea carried out ballistic missile test which had the potential to strike the West Coast of the United States. The Trump Administration feared an all-out war when US conducted a military exercises with South Korea and Japan. At the same time, North Korea carried out its sixth Nuclear Weapons testing on 3rd September 2017. This led to banters being exchanged between the two countries, raising fear of a possible war. Subsequent missile tests carried out by North Korea in October lead Trump to label North Korean President Kim Jong-un as the ‘Little Rocket Man’. During 2017, North Korea fired 23 missiles during 16 tests and conducted its sixth nuclear test, sending waves of tensions towards the US and its allies and North Korea.
Panmunjom Declaration and the Summit
The tensions between the two countries began to ease with the talks between the two neighbors North Korea – South Korea. North Korea also sent its players to South Korea to participate in the Winter Olympics in Pyongcheng. On the sidelines of these Games the world also saw officials from both the countries meeting to restore talks. Another significant development was the restoration of the Pyongyang-Seoul hotline on 20 April 2018. This culminated in the Korean leaders, Kim Jong Un and Moon Jae-in meeting on 27 April 2018 at the Demilitarized Zone and subsequent signing the Panmunjom Declaration. On 5 March 2018, North Korea invited USA for formal meeting between the two countries. The Declaration, which led to complete ban on nuclear and missile testing by the North and paved way for a meeting between North Korea and United States. However this Summit was cancelled, as North Korea somewhat disagreed with US plans of North Korean Denuclearisation programme. The Summit talks were reinstated on June 1, when Kim Kong-un sent a letter to Donald Trump, which was accepted.
Hence, for the first time in 70 years, both leaders of the countries met on 12 June 2018 in Singapore. In a meeting that lasted around two – three hours, both the delegations were involved in a meetings and lunch. Subsequently, the leaders signed a joint statement, titled “Joint Statement of President Donald J. Trump of the United States of America and Chairman Kim Jong-un of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea at the Singapore Summit”, which Trump described as a “very important” and “comprehensive” agreement.
The agreement stated as follows:-
“…..President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un state the following:
- The United States and the DPRK commit to establish new U.S.-DPRK relations in accordance with the desire of the peoples of the two countries for peace and prosperity.
- The United States and the DPRK will join their efforts to build a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.
- Reaffirming the April 27, 2018 Panmunjom Declaration, the DPRK commits to work towards the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
- The United States and the DPRK commit to recovering POW/MIAremains including the immediate repatriation of those already identified….”
More importantly Trump’s commitment for providing Security Guarantees to North Korea. Subsequent talks between the two countries will identify as to how the goals of the document are to be met.
Takeaways from the historic Summit
This Summit is win-win situation for both the countries and the world at large too to achieve peace and security. For USA, the threat of nuclear war is no longer there.
Trump said, that “North Korea is no longer a nuclear threat”.
For North Korea, it will help restore relations between the two countries and kindle diplomatic relations with other nations as well. It will also hope that the various sanctions imposed, will be reduced and will get help for Nuclear Weapons to be destroyed, per the goals of the summit.
One question that failed to be addressed was the Gross Human Rights Violations by North Korea. Currently there are almost 13,000 political prisoners in various death camps in the country and half of the population is living below the poverty line. In spite of these violations being well-evidenced, the Summit didn’t address how these challenges will be tackled. Apart from the regime’s human rights abuses, its exports of missile technology and its mistreatment of US prisoners, its long record of dangerous cyber-attacks against sensitive targets in various nations, specifically US and Japan.
In spite of all the unanswered questions, the Summit was still a success and a significant one, considering North Korea wants to establish relations with the world, and with USA. The Summit will also help North Korea to open up to other countries and allow trade and commerce to flourish. Given North Korea’s history of false presences, this Summit will be good opportunity for Kim Jong-un’s Government to make good on their promises and not back away from it.
Authored by Vishal Shrivastava | Final Year Student, Symbiosis Law School, NOIDA