Many headlines question Trump’s triumph in Singapore, unreasonably so. Petty minds are at work who are paid to create stories, and stories always have conflict as a central element. If there is no conflict, the pundits imagine it. This is why fake news is not news but a form of entertainment. Besides, the audience for anti-Trump material is large.
The media belittle Trump’s accomplishment in countless petty ways, but they’ll soon be forgotten as they go on to the next concocted story. Trump will be remembered when they are long forgotten.
The big picture is that Trump outfoxed China. Trump broke the ice. He broke a frozen situation in Korea that favored China and its erstwhile ally, North Korea. China is trying to act as if it was critical in this movement, because China wants to hold North Korea in its sphere of economic and political influence. However, a united Korea stands like a united Vietnam as a stopping point for Chinese pretensions to project its power beyond its borders. Trump’s agreement with Kim signals the blocking of China and a limit to Chinese hegemony over its neighbors, and that is a major accomplishment for the U.S. strategy toward China.
The big picture is that in Singapore Trump and Kim furthered a peace process that began on May 10, 2017 when the newly-elected Moon made peace with North Korea a priority. Other steps have been taken during the past year, including meetings between Moon and Kim. The Singapore Agreement is yet another step that keeps the momentum of this process going. Hypercritical media comments and questions about the latest summit ignore or miss the big picture, which is that it is part of a stepwise process. This involves discovery by all sides of what can be done and invention of ways to do it, all embedded in a complex situation that involves neighbors like China and Japan who also have interests in the region. Trump’s approach was to endorse a general framework, and that’s sensible because the discovery-invention process takes a lot of time and dickering. Both sides retained flexibility through this lean approach.
Cold War and post-Cold War warriors who remain outspoken and influential in Washington did not succeed in getting their way with North Korea, after decades of trying. The situation threatened to come to open war. Trump has postponed that day and opened up the opportunity to make sure that that day never arrives. This is a major accomplishment and triumph.
The deal is not done, and Trump knows it. His followup remarks have been open and frank concerning how matters can change as time passes. Trump unfroze the untenable situation created by his predecessors. Kim, Moon and Trump will now have to keep doing that by concrete steps such as Trump’s calling for a halt to joint war games with South Korea.9:59 pm on June 13, 2018 Email Michael S. Rozeff