With more missile launch tests heating up the weekend, President Trump’s tweets about the beauty of Chairman Kim’s ‘vision’ for his country should unnerve, writes Remy Wendel.
The date of 30 June 2019 will forever mark the first day a sitting American president stepped foot into North Korea since the signing of the armistice of the Korean War.
Following good-willed but failed attempts at diplomacy between the United States and North Korea over a stalemate in nuclear negotiations, critics of both powers believe relations between the two are at an increasingly insecure tipping point; a prospect that could lead to catastrophic and possibly nuclear consequences.
The visit to the Korean Demilitarised Zone (DMZ)—the buffer area between North and South Korea respectively—by US President Donald Trump follows four months of uncertainty after the failure of the US-Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) summit in Hanoi in February. The Hanoi Summit abruptly ended after less than two days of negotiation and was deemed a greater failure than the previous summit in Singapore which, albeit without a substantial conclusion, at least concluded.
The significance of President Trump crossing the border is politically substantial.
It can be argued that the visit—a four-minute run of pictures and pageantry—can be presumed to be a symbolic show of the US president’s recognition and legitimisation of the DPRK as a nuclear-armed state, moreover absolving the rogue state of blatant human rights abuses that would classify, in most nations, as crimes against humanity.
This is a terrifying thought when considering the fact that the North Korean administration has been backpedalling and refusing to adhere to its pledge of resuming working-level dialogue following the breakdown of the Hanoi Summit and subsequent negotiations.
This instability is most evidently seen in the DPRK’s inimical display of its fifth ballistic missile testing in less than two weeks, in response to South Korean-US military drills on the Korean Peninsula. With Chairman Kim’s oversight, the DPRK administration condemned the recent exercises and released a statement affirming that the weapons display was unmistakably a ‘warning to the joint military drills now underway by the US and South Korean authorities’.
The testing indicates that the DPRK administration under Chairman Kim is employing a nuclear program that shows no signs of composure.
Unwillingness to cooperate effectively with the US and continuing the program despite heavy and debilitating sanctions is sending a clear message: there will be no effective discourse without the presentation of a more flexible stance on the North Korean nuclear capability.
However, despite its discernible behaviour, the rogue state will not give up on the possibility of diplomacy.
The reasoning behind this is unequivocal.
Kim looks to deflect the inadmissible fact that there has been extremely little progression in the denuclearisation ‘promise’, assured by both leaders at the Singapore Summit, by increasing strategic tensions on the Peninsula.
By deflecting attention, the Kim administration lays blame on the US for this lack of progression. Moreover, it shifts the responsibility to its southern counterpart in order to balance and maintain peace between the deadlocked nations.
By alleviating itself of responsibility, North Korea has shown it has no intention to denuclearise.
Rather than pushing for working-level dialogue, something that is still in the Kim administration’s interest, North Korea looks to make a performance of its nuclear capability in order to substitute the lack of a tangible outcomes, pressuring the US to adhere to its end of year deadline for nuclear talks,
Dramatics aside, the American reaction to North Korea’s nuclear testing is equally as worrisome.
President Trump’s downplay of the tests and subsequent praise of Kim as a friend with a ‘great and beautiful vision for his country’ shows that, at least to the rest of the world, the US administration is not treating the situation with the gravity it deserves.
The North Korean administration’s continued provocation cannot be underestimated as a ‘beautiful vision’.
President Trump’s procrastinate behaviour has effectively granted Chairman Kim permission to build and test missiles, nuclear or solely ballistic, on the Korean Peninsula with the capability of reaching US allies.
Trump’s rose-coloured vision of tensions on the Korean Peninsula is increasingly destabilising.
By overselling the prospect of denuclearisation and allowing the Kim regime to apply convincing pressure for alleviating sanctions, optimism is a trait absent in many onlookers.
For now, we can only hope for the relief that will follow any tangible developments in the denuclearisation process.