There is an ancient Chinese adage: “If you don’t agree with your enemies, that means you are actually controlled by them.” Is it unwise and naïve to agree with your enemies? Not as long as your vital interests are substantially imperiled or it is a win-win situation for both or all the parties involved.
It is pertinent to underscore here, speaking historically, that the Korean Peninsula, which was controlled by the Japanese since the Russo-Japanese war of 1905, was bifurcated between the U.S. and Soviet Union soon when the Second World War culminated in the surrender of its colonial master in Japan. Since then, and especially after the Korean War, that began in the mid -1950 between the Soviet-backed North Korea and the U.S.-backed South Korea, the U.S.-North Korea relations have been in a downward spiral.
The recent summit between a serving U.S. president in Donald J. Trump and his North Korean counterpart Mr. Kim Jung-un, which was hosted by Singapore, is indeed an unprecedented and commendable diplomatic engagement between the two parties especially in the backdrop of the past few years which were replete with utmost mutual detestation, lampoons, chilling threats of a nuclear encounter, and a spat of biting economic sanctions levied against the hermit communist regime as a punitive measure for its unrelenting nuclear ambitions.
At the summit, there were handshakes, exchange of smiles, mutual back-patting and much more- ostensibly meant to give the impression that all was well and that things were about to be sorted out now. It has nonetheless generated a sense and semblance of optimism and of peace among the people of the world in general and the Americans and North Koreans in particular.
However, apart from the flamboyant success of the historic icebreaking diplomatic warmth between the two nations, expecting anytime soon, any real-time tangible and concrete results, which are acceptable to both parties, will be naïve and unrealistic. The reasons for this are multiple; for example, Mr. Trump has to make sure that he has the backs of his Japanese and South Korean partners when he will be required to pull out the 28,500 U.S. troops stationed in South Korea, dismantle its nuclear umbrella (including the THAAD battery) up there and also to halt the massive military exercises on the South Korean soil, in an effort to bring lasting peace to the region. Plus, Mr. Trump will also be required to make sure that the North Koreans agreed to CVID (Complete, Verifiable, and Irreversible Destruction of the North’s nuclear arsenal). Ironically, these issues were not mentioned, let alone made unambiguous and concurred upon, on the signed documents in Singapore- which point to vague or poorly defined conceptions such as ‘complete denuclearization,’ ‘peace regime, ‘ etc. These are probably the reasons why the South Koreans have sought clarification from Mr. Trump when he revealed his intentions that the U.S. will cease military exercises with South Korea, and why the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov has pulled up an irritatingly prudent comment over the summit “as of now, we cannot but welcome the fact that an important step forward has been made, adding, ‘devil is in the details,’ of course, and it is necessary to understand the specificities of the summit and the agreement reached.” Thus, both the U.S. and North Korea will have to work together more judiciously, indefatigably and without any delay, to overcome the above contentious points before doling out an “all is well” message to the world.
Moreover, Kim Jong-un’s security assurances from the U.S., in the form of complete de-nuclearization and de-militarization of the peninsula , play well into Mr. Trump’s hands who has shown on multiple occasions his deep resentment over the spending of billions of dollars of U.S. taxpayers’ money on the U.S. troops stationed at and the anti-missile batteries installed on the Korean peninsula for the protection of its South Korean and Japanese partners. In addition to that, peace on the peninsula will also help eschew incurring the loss of more money and life on the U.S. side. As for the North Koreans, they will soon have better days coming their way, should they even partially de-nuclearize their country, in terms of seriously halting further nuclear and ballistic missiles tests and abandoning its bellicose foreign policy postures toward its neighbors. Thus it is a win-win situation for both the parties involved.
Also, on the one hand, an energy-hungry, pro-North Korea and anti-Japan and the anti-South Korea People’s Republic of China will be the main beneficiary should durable and lasting peace returns to the nuclearized and militarized Korean peninsula which has been a major headache for the Red Dragon for decades. On the other, de-escalation on the peninsula will also be a moment of strategic solace for the Russians as they can’t afford a war waged on its borders with North Korea. Moreover, any potential nuclear encounter, should the bilateral talks falter to yield any concrete results, will be catastrophic since the region has more than one nuclear-capable States, and which may descend into an unpredictable and uncontrollable course of nuclear cataclysm. That is the reason, and perhaps not wrongly though, that the Russians together with the Chinese have ignited the calls for resumption of six-party talks over the lingering issue toward a permanent solution.
Additionally, a permanent solution of the crisis will also be of substantial advantage to pro-American South Korea and Japan, who are more concerned about their economic development and democratic consolidation at home than preparing to confront a nuclear threat in North Korea. They know well from their past experiences that war brings nothing but destruction, slavery, disease, and poverty and this is the right time for them to unite behind a smart and sagacious Mr. Trump in order to close this chapter once and for all to the advantage of all parties concerned.