Trump–Kim Summit Has Yet to Peak
After the Trump–Kim summit in Singapore, some asked whether the meeting was a success. Well, depending on who you ask, you will definitely get different answers. Nevertheless, even those die-hard haters of President Donald Trump would have to agree that our world, and particularly the nation of Japan and American soldiers in Asia, are safer now than they were before this historic meeting.
However, if we look at this development on the Korean Peninsula from another perspective and with more parties considered, we might draw a conclusion that the summit is a good start, maybe a great start, and the climax and further implications of the summit have yet to come.
Critics of Trump argue that there were no specifics on paper and that the North Korean pledge of denuclearization lacks the “CVI” component—completeness, verifiability, and irreversibility. The need for CVI is a true and good reminder of the nature of communist regimes.
Thank goodness, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reiterated that issue and made it clear that CVI will be adhered to and the joint military exercises between South Korean and American forces will resume as soon as any sign of noncompliance is spotted.
Kim Jong Un from the hermit kingdom will very likely make good on his promise this time. The reasons are threefold: one, the times have changed; two, Trump is different from previous U.S. presidents; and three, Kim has virtually no cards left to play from his hand.
I am almost certain that Kim will give up his nukes, not because this brutal dictator has suddenly turned compassionate and benevolent, but because of Trump’s resolve, the military threat, and the international coalition against him. Dictators may be vicious to their own people, but they are very afraid of death.
Trump said that “anyone can make war—only the most courageous can make peace.” It is truly so. When I saw that Trump was not even afraid of offending the current leaders of Western allies, such as the German chancellor, the French president, and the Canadian prime minister, while being capable of making friends with heads of hostile countries such as China, Russia, and North Korea, his actions made me think of those famous words from “The Godfather: Part II”: “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.”
According to an analysis by Reuters, North Korean state media changed its usual strict, poker-faced style and reported on the summit with evident ease and relief. Obviously, this sense of relief comes from high-level officials, and very likely from Kim himself, as he is probably truly relieved at not facing his personal doomsday.
A crucial aspect of the joint statement by Trump and Kim, aside from denuclearization and a “new U.S.–North Korean relationship,” is the security guarantee that Trump provides to North Korea.
The normalization of the U.S.–North Korea relationship is a thorn in the side of the Chinese communist regime. To the Chinese Communist Party, North Korea has always been regarded as a little brother, a little partner, and a friend in combat and blood. It has been hundreds of years since China became the protector of the Korean Peninsula and, particularly for the last 70 years, of the North Korean regime. Now almost overnight, the role of protector and guardianship has changed hands to America, which is a huge source of humiliation for the Chinese Communist Party.
Interestingly, as America became North Korea’s new guardian, there is nothing the Chinese regime could do to prevent it or stop it. Even worse, China sent its own plane to take Kim Jong Un to Singapore, and even fighter jets as an escort. Handing its closest ally over to its archenemy—this is no doubt a double jeopardy for Beijing.
It is clear now that Kim, on the other hand, has always tried to step out of the trap of the six-party talks (between China, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, Russia, and the United States) and instead deal with America directly. When he killed his uncle and his own brother, it was indeed for his own safety and grip on power, but it also cleared out the influence of pro-China factions within his leadership team. This young, little “rocket man” has successfully forced America to treat him as an equal on the international stage.
Chinese media in Hong Kong and Taiwan view the summit as something strikingly similar to President Richard Nixon’s visit to China and meeting with Mao Zedong. This is actually quite a reasonable comparison, and that is also why the Chinese regime felt very uncomfortable with the summit and directed Chinese state-run media to under-report the event.
When China and the United States established diplomatic relations following Nixon’s visit, China and the Soviet Union almost went to war. Now, with the United States and North Korea on good terms, a conflict between China and North Korea is not impossible.
Above all, the true meaning and significance of this summit go beyond the denuclearization of North Korea. Its implication for the future, whether Trump realized this or not and did this intentionally or unintentionally, is to dismantle communist rule in northeast Asia—including in China.
Remember what Trump showed Kim in that short video (which was, by the way, a great PR stunt)? What Trump envisions for Kim and North Korea is a free, capitalistic society where wealth, prosperity, and security are possible.
What Trump has done, using both carrots and sticks, is guide and ask the North Korean dictator to give up the communist system.
It was the fault of the Chinese communists and the Soviet communists that North Korea was involved in hostility with the free world. The Chinese and Soviet communist regimes supported and helped to put in place the puppet regime of Kim Il Sung, grandfather of Kim Jong Un.
The North Korean regime since Kim Il Sung was communist in nature, but it named itself the Labor Party, rather than the Communist Party. Thus, giving up communism and embracing capitalism is not that difficult for Kim and his country. They’ve also seen that a little bit of capitalism in China has enabled a huge amount of wealth to be generated through trade with America, and that now, they can do the same, without the oversight and scrutiny of its Chinese big brother.
In addition, Kim is not that friendly with the Chinese communist regime and Chinese leader Xi Jinping, as Kim, until recently, had never visited China after taking power seven years ago. He only visited China when he felt the huge pressure and imminent threat from Trump and needed some help.
The Trump–Kim summit has set the stage for a unified Korea, something only remotely possible just months ago. A Korean Peninsula free from communism and under the protective wing of America would really be a nightmare to communist Beijing, and that is the true and significant contribution of the historic meeting in Singapore.
Dr. Frank Tian Xie is John M. Olin Palmetto chair professor of business and associate professor of marketing at the University of South Carolina–Aiken.