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United Daily News: Bizarre twists and turns of Trump-Kim summit

2018/05/27 19:23:26

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (left/file photo) and United States President Donald Trump (right/CNA file photo)

United States President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un are both known as unpredictable personalities, which is evident in the rapid twists and turns of their planned high profile summit in Singapore. No sooner had Trump announced that the momentous summit was being aborted than he said he was hopeful it would go ahead as planned on June 12.

In an open letter to Kim on May 24, Trump said he was forced to cancel the meeting – a development that was not surprising given the rough going of the preparatory work. North Korea did not show up for a pre-summit meeting in Singapore and then blasted the U.S. for putting forth the "Libya model" as threat if North Korea did not abandon its nuclear weapon program.

North Korea would not mind shipping all of its nuclear bomb material to Tennessee -- as U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton suggested -- but it does care about the possibility of following in the footsteps of Libyan strongman Muammar al-Gaddafi, who died a humiliating death in 2011.

Trump later declared that there would no "Libya model," only a "Trump model" under which he could guarantee the safety of the Kim regime.

There is a widely held view that the key to a productive Trump-Kim summit lies in North Korea's willingness to denuclearize.

If North Korea just pretends to do away with its nuclear weapons system but hides some nuke bombs and then proceeds to declare after the summit that it is a nuclear power, the U.S. would be reduced to a world-class laughing stock and Trump would be extremely embarrassed.

If the U.S. can guarantee the security and safety of North Korea, and the latter stops touting its nuclear status, that would amount to a "real" denuclearization agreement at the summit. Both sides, therefore, would regret it if a summit is not held to reach such an agreement.

The latest development shows that in spite of Trump's fury in announcing the cancellation of the meeting, he left a trace of hope for restarting it sometime later, while the North Koreans also remained open to negotiations with the U.S. in the future.

North Korea said it has shown goodwill by releasing three U.S. hostages and destroying a nuclear test site in the northern part of the country.

North Korea's ruling Workers Party has resolved to reform the economy, a shift of policy that calls for normalizing relations with the U.S. Meanwhile, to win the mid-term elections in November, Trump's Republican Party needs a foreign affairs breakthrough that can best be realized with a Trump-Kim summit.

On his part, South Korean President Moon Jae-in has bet his political future on U.S.-North Korea reconciliation, without which he will become a big loser in the geopolitical game. His party will likely be defeated in the local elections in June. So it is natural that Moon will try to do everything he can to help make the Trump-Kim summit a reality.

As an East Asian country, Taiwan has not made any comments or expressed any position on the rapid changes in this regional development. Perhaps Taiwan's ruling and opposition parties are too tightly bound up in the island's relationship with its mainland rival.

A bigger problem for us, however, is that we care only about U.S. and cross-strait issues, which indeed is sad for our foreign relations. (Editorial abstract -- May 27, 2018)

(By S.C. Chang)