Kim-Trump Summit: How David Defeated Goliath

On June 12, 2018, Singapore hosted a “historic” summit meeting of US president Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, which initiated a new round of negotiations. Professor Georgy Toloraya, Executive Director of the Russian National Committee on BRICS Research, discussed the results of the meeting, mutual concessions of the parties and the new reality in an interview with

The summit had two sides and two goals. The first one is spectacular, and the participants of the show coped with their task for alpha plus. The world saw reconciliation of longtime enemies, how two wise and determined leaders shook hands, clapped each other on the back and said that now they will not fight, but establish a good relationship and fulfill their obligations. This is a great achievement for both sides, the summit played its role and, as a “milestone” event, it really leaves a mark in history.

However, in reality nothing happened: the document signed has the general character. It repeated everything that was already mentioned in other documents of the United States and North Korea since the “framework agreement” of 1994. Then there was a joint statement following the visit of Vice Marshal Jo Myong-rok to the White House and his meeting with Bill Clinton, and many other documents: for example, the six-party joint statement of September 19, 2005, where everything that was said today was spelled out much more clearly. Kim surely managed to win back some things in his favor: first, the document contains the formula of “the movement towards full denuclearization of the Korean peninsula,” but there are no American mantras about its “irreversibility” and “verifiability.” Kim insisted on the North Korean formula. Second, it refers to the DPRK’s “security guarantees,” and this formula was not used before: it was about “promises,” but “guarantees” is also the North Korean idea. On the other hand, Trump also worked out his number: in his dialogue with Kim he mentioned both human rights and the kidnapped Japanese. He confirmed that the parties would seek to create a peaceful regime involving South Korea and China – so both countries should be satisfied and will not undermine the results of the summit.

The central concrete result of the summit was the launching of a full-scale diplomatic dialogue. Trump said that next week Mike Pompeo and John Bolton (as a “relatively good” cop and a “|completely bad” one) would meet with North Koreans, and there is a hope that the process of a road map development for concessions will begin. It can last a long time and break at any stage. However, in this case, the process is more important than the result: while diplomats speak, the guns are silent, and this is the main thing that must be achieved on the Korean peninsula.

North Korea is likely to refuse to further build up its nuclear and missile capabilities. It will not provoke the United States and may even go along the path of reducing the stocks of fissile materials, refusing to produce new warheads and abandoning some classes of intercontinental ballistic missiles. Kim had already told Trump about the dismantling of the test site for missile engines, which the latter presented as his great victory. From now on, North Koreans will play along to the Americans. They have achieved the main thing: if the negotiations continue, North Korea is already unconditionally recognized as a nuclear power. As to the “denuclearization,” the country already possesses nuclear weapons. David defeated Goliath, although this victory turned out to be bloodless. The US came to terms with the fact, that it was not possible to crush North Korea: now it will have to coexist with it. All of this is beneficial for Russia, because if South Korea and North Korea begin full-scale cooperation, Russia will be also able to join them in the framework of trilateral projects.

There is no need to put special hopes on the fact that the summit solved all the problems and became a turning point in international relations: in fact, it has changed little. However, a very positive trend was created, which, as I hope, will continue, at least during Trump’s presidency.

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