Korea Kim-Trump Talks Concerns,
Gabriel C Banda
OF course, effect of Tweeting on issues may be one of the concerns we may have about the coming Korea talks involving Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un.
The talks on Korea will have many issues of contention and concern. The issues will be about process, content, and outcome of the discussion.
A concern will be that the parties may affect the discussion and spirit of the meeting by the way they want to appear to be the ones controlling the meeting or its outcome.
The parties may be keen to tell their home audiences and the world that they are the ones deciding and influencing the direction of the talks. Thus parties must be careful with the official and unofficial statements being issued by the leaders and their team members.
As happened in recent days, remarks considered unfavourable by others involved almost derailed the Singapore talks on Korea. This was worsened by junior officials of the American and Korean governments attacking the other’s head of state.
Already, some members of wide media are in coverage not reporting accurately or fairly. There is prejudice and bias, lack of understanding, and there seems desire to influence the direction and result of talks. This affects people’s attitudes towards the activities and outcome of the Kim-Trump first direct talks.
Trump may be going in as ruler of a superpower, something that will not help relations. (We have argued in our other writings that there can be no Superpower on earth and that the Superpower concept is a myth).
The parties must go in at a human level and they will find there is some common humanity they can build on. As we have suggested before when Trump was implying an immediate agreement to denuclearise at first meeting, the Kim-Trump talks should be considered a first contact meeting that will enable the two to go past the dehumanisation that US and North Korea government propaganda has for some seven decades made of the other.
When they are humane with each other, they will find respect of the other as a member of our common human family. With respect for each other, tension will decline. It is then easy to put aside the cleavages of past militarism towards each other.
The Singapore meeting could be better considered a meeting that enables knowing one another and the building of relationships. It should be some process that enables all parties to get to understand each other and deeply deal with appreciating their key situations and concerns.
When you get close to another and interact, prejudices are reduced and you appreciate the other as a person, as human also. Then it is easier to work together with the person.
When friendship begins, the tension will lessen. With less fear and tension, and one being at ease, one does not build huge military arsenals against those that are becoming their friends. North Korea and the United States then need not spend hugely on the military.
Some concern will involve the content of the discussion, which is based on current and past contested issues. There are some key contested issues to settle. The issue of “denuclearisation” by North Korea will need deep discussion.
For decades, the various North Korea administrations tried to develop nuclear capacity as defensive mechanism against USA nuclear and non-nuclear weapon threats.
Just after the Second World War, where the US government had within days used atomic weapons against Japan’s Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Korea War led to the deaths, by USA forces’ use of unethical military attacks, of millions of Koreans. The USA even threatened with use of atomic weapons in Korea. Thousands of American, British, and allied troops died. Like other wars, it was a war of no-winners.
The 1950 – 1953 Korea war, like the effects of the Japanese invasion of Korea and China, has remained part of bitter memories that make the North Korea governments be on guard and unyielding towards USA or Japan military threats. The war also affected troops and families in the western world. The war was not officially settled and stopped. Korea continued being divided into North and South.
The publicised immediate “denuclearisation” goal as Trump’s main one in the planned talks was not realistic. It was too early. A relationship first needs to be built. The Trump side seems to think they will even supervise the dismantling of the missile and nuclear facilities.
On Korea, there are some key issues eventually to be settled. One is on nuclear weapons. Another military issue is the presence of the USA forces in the region. Their presence threatens North Korea, which in turn has tried to arm itself, to extent of nuclear weapons, to avoid being destroyed by USA wrath.
The issues involve many parties. There is North Korea and South Korea, formerly one nation, divided by Russia and American forces. There is the North Korea-USA tense relationship. There is also China in the picture, China being concerned with the presence of the USA forces in the area. There is also Russia in the picture.
And then there are US allies like Japan, who are in some military alliance with USA over North Korea.
In some ways, much of the tension between North Korea and the USA helps the USA to put troops and forces in the area, officially to mark North Korea but mainly to be there to check China.
North Korea does not threaten the United States save to defend itself against threats of military attack and regime change. Left to itself, North Korea has no reason to attack the USA. Thus, for a settlement, the need for the USA to move away from demonising and threatening the North Korea administration.
Within North and South Korea, they dream about their people being free to move within the united territory. There are families that have been divided and want to reconnect. The two governments of Korea think about officially settling the Korean war with ceasefire. They also need to nourish economic relations.
The meetings of North Korea’s Kim Jong-un and South Korea’s Moon Jae-in showed that much advance is possible, with Moon from the beginning of his presidency having been pro-peace with the North.
What often prevents the two Koreas from making advances are strong external forces with various interests in the area. Sometimes some interests of those external forces are not supported by the Koreans.
The long tension between US and North Korea governments is not necessary. It has been long because of external interests. Left to themselves, North and South Korea could have found some way of living together without excessive tension.
One reason the United States may in recent years not have attacked North Korea is that attacking the North would lead to war between North and South. USA ally Japan would also be drawn in through being attacked. That deters possible US attacks for regime change. There would be many casualties in Korea North and South, and even Japan, while the USA rulers may be far away and safe.
President Donald Trump seems to imply that denuclearisation is about disarming North Korea. It is unclear what the USA is offering to do to reduce its part contributing to tension.
Insistence on immediate and complete denuclearisation at this time might work to disturb the reaching of some agreement now and later. For now, the two forces can start with some issues they can easily come to agreement with. These will enable them build a relationship that will lead to later dealing with more complex issues like denuclearisation and adjustment of military presences.
The issue of “denuclearisation” of North Korea is complex and will not be immediately fully settled. From past USA examples over Japan, Iraq, and the Libya model, North Korea is unlikely to immediately dismantle what it has for decades built and used as deterrence against possible USA aggression and regime change.
The USA will not be easily trusted not to attack militarily or use other sanctions to bring down North Korea’s government. Saddam in Iraq, in 2003, and Qaddafi in Libya, 2011, were examples of United Nations instruments being used to dismantle military capacity and then the USA and allies going in to attack and eventually kill the rulers, leading to instability that has affected the whole world.
Another problem is that the US does not have the moral authority to disarm another government of weapons which the USA itself has in large quantity. Genuine denuclearisation requires that the USA itself de-nukes, at least in the Korean peninsula.
But with the nature of technology, which includes far away missile platforms on land, sea, and air, the North Koreans will still feel threatened by the USA even when there are no ships and aircraft near the Korea borders.
It is also unfair for the USA negotiators to expect Kim to yield quickly to disarmament when the USA and allies have recently been involved in controversial military exercises that have for decades threatened North Korea.
The USA administration should have shown some step towards goodwill and peace by a favourable response to North Korea’s recent actions of, as Kim had promised, dismantling some of its missile and nuclear testing apparatus.
One expects Kim Jong-un to ask Trump to dismantle the presence of American forces in the Korea peninsula. As a way of going forward in the talks and relations, a USA military down-adjustment or withdrawal, complete or partial, will be key issues proposed.
Leaving or reducing military presence in the Korea peninsula will have some effects on US and Korea military economies. In the Singapore talks, a USA’s decline in reducing or removing their military arsenal will affect discussions about North Korea’s denuclearisation.
Not the United Nations
Another factor is that the United States government is not the United Nations. Already, they are a party to the Korea conflict and a more neutral party would have been easier to facilitate a meeting where the USA and North Korea, and even South Korea, would have been the key parties seeking to solve the conflict.
Regime Change pattern
North Korea may fear regime change efforts by external authorities. The pattern behind justifying and preparing for attacks against some opponents includes: declare that a ruler is a dictator, ruthless, has committed crimes against humanity against their own people and others, is armed with weapons of mass destruction, supports terrorism, and threatens the USA and allies.
The ruler will also be shown as isolated, a “recluse,” a vagabond without companions. While the USA and allies will be called “the international community,” they will label those governing by the unfavourable term “regime.” The ruler is portrayed as worthy to be destroyed.
Then the United Nations system or some other system or alliance set up has been used to cripple the opponent’s economy and disarm the military. Then the disarmed ruler and regime is attacked. And the ruler is killed, using legal or non-legal instruments.
Such events people like Kim Jong-un may be worry of and will try to avoid being victims of. Thus the denuclearisation or disarmament talk will be complex and not solvable within a few days.
Now, as enticement, President Trump has put forward the reward of economic support and progress for North Korea if Kim denuclearises. Yet this is a complex thing. North Korea, as happened with Zimbabwe, has been affected by economic sanctions, led by the USA and allies.
So it is not necessary to reward the North with payments for Kim to find economic relief. Important is to let North Korea be freed from sanctions led by the USA.
When sanctions are lifted, North Korea will be free to trade and make many linkages. It is unlikely that the North Koreans will focus on the USA as their economic saviour. Freed from sanctions, North Korea is likely to go full strength with those they have trusted for long, those like China.
North Korea may avoid financial handouts from USA because they may bring vulnerability in times of issues like differences, with examples like Trump’s threat to withdraw American finance to Palestine.
Kim and Trump have inherited the tension of long ago and have nourished it. Now is another chance to move from tension and work towards healing.
Due to propaganda by American and North Korean governments over the decades, there is some problem of generalising and stigmatising Americans and North Koreans.
For some explained or unexplained reasons, some persons do not like Kim Jong-un and North Korea. Without aiming to understand the truth and context but following the prejudices and hostility of some opposing government rulers and others, some have portrayed Kim Jong-un and administration as harsh and inhuman.
But in terms of the walk towards the Singapore meeting, actually Kim Jong-un shows self-control, order, and organisation. He and Donald Trump are able to work together and produce a result for the Common Good.
Meanwhile, Donald Trump will need to keep his Tweeter addiction in check. It has affected local and external politics and even financial markets.
It must also be realised that, unlike what is portrayed, the stigmatisation and demonization of North Korea and its rulers is actually not world-wide. Over the years, North Korea has had good relations with some governments of Africa and other places.
Besides what we have discussed here, there are other issues that will be of concern at the Kim-Trump June 2018 summit in Singapore.
But, for now, both Kim and Trump must be commended for the courage to reach the other that had been, by propaganda of decades, portrayed negatively.
This Singapore meeting must be regarded as an important foundation step in helping to reduce, and eventually remove, unnecessary tension between them, a tension that has bearing on the whole of humanity. Other meetings will follow.
Even if there is no major announcement of solving a contentious issue such as nuclearisation, it will actually be sufficient achievement for Kim and Trump to just have met.
For now, it is important that some careless tweet from folks does not disturb the progress of the Kim-Trump first talks.
GCB, May/June, 2018, LUSAKA.
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Based at Lusaka, Zambia, the author is involved in writing and the arts, social development, and observation of conflict and peace issues. Attended the MA Peace Studies programme at University of Bradford.