On June 12, as the world held its collective breath, so-to-say, as US President Donald Trump, leader of the world’s foremost military power, met with his adversary - President Kim Jong-un of North Korea - a protege of China, the world’s leading economic power.
The bone of contention - North Korea’s nuclear weapons as well as its missiles programme.
In the aftermath of Trump’s ascendance as President of the US, the war of words, threats and counterthreats to the use of nuclear weapons as a means of settling the dispute which broke out between the US president and his counter-part in North Korea, alarmed people worldwide and led to calls for tempering down of the rhetoric to ensure the vile threats did not lead to an accidental outbreak of nuclear war.
Even prior to his inauguration Trump had taken an extremely belligerent stance towards the North Korean regime as well as against China.
While tensions continued to rise, of a sudden on Apr 30, 2018 - Trump floated the idea of meeting Kim on the border of Koreas. Then, equally suddenly on May 24, Trump called off summit citing various reasons and then again on Jun 1, 2018, Trump announced that the summit with Kim Jong Un was back on track, a week after he called it off. So it was President Trump finally met at a ‘summit meeting’ with President Kim Jong-un of North Korea. The on-again, off-again meeting finally taking place on June 12 in Singapore.
The hurriedly planned event which began at approximately 9.00 am, included a bilateral private meeting between the two leaders sans advisors - only included their translators - and was followed by an expanded bilateral meeting. The summit itself had no clear or specifically enunciated goals.
While US Secretary of State Pompeo described US objectives as the immediate ‘permanent, verifiable, irreversible dismantling of North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction programme, North Korea’s state media said the pair would discuss a ‘permanent and durable peace-keeping mechanism’ on the Korean peninsula, denuclearisation of the peninsula and other issues of mutual concern!
Not surprisingly the joint declaration issued by the two sides after the summit did not commit North Korea to the complete, irreversible and verifiable dismantling of Pyongyang’s nuclear arsenal. Rather, it included a comment that North Korea would “work toward the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula” and for follow-up talks.
Since North Korea had already committed itself to halt testing of nuclear weapons, at a summit between the North and South Korea earlier, the joint declaration had little serious content. So what exactly changes after the summit between the ‘most powerful man in the world’ -Trump and the North Korean leader?
As we mentioned in these columns earlier, the US move to focus on Asia is to counteract China’s growing economic might and military stature, which is being seen as a threat to US interests in the region. The Trump-Kim summit needs to be understood in the light of how the US views China. Its (China’s) rise to the position of world’s leading economic power and its ambition in the region and beyond. It would appear the US summit meeting with North Korea is an attempt to leverage on this new-found friendship a means of outflanking China in its own backyard. It is also a means of building new alliances with countries in the South China Sea region who have issues with China’s growing ambitions.
In the recent past we have witnessed US allies making efforts to convince countries in the South Asia region to beware of possible ‘Chinese debt traps’ which could turn these countries - including Sri Lanka- into pawns in a game of ‘Chinese Chequers’.
Through its meddling in West Asia (Middle East), the US and its western allies have brought ruin, death, suffering and destruction to the people in that region of the Asian continent.
The Kim-Trump Summit looks more like a preparation of the ground, to create similar situations of destabilization and unrest as are prevalent in the Middle East in South and East Asia.
It appears to be, not only an effort to not contain China, but to regain US dominance in the Asia region.