It’s been over a week since Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un met in Singapore, so we ask some very simple questions that you have. Or at least we assumed that you did anyway.
Now about a week removed, the historic summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean Ruler Kim Jong Un has created many questions among reporters and the American public. Considering the North Korean government, the Trump administration, and sometimes even the media are taking up various talking points, in times like these, it’s good to separate the things that we know from the things that we don’t. Here are 10 questions to help us out with that.
Q1: So what exactly happened between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un in Singapore? (Without getting into all the pomp-and-circumstance over the historical significance of the event, the meeting itself was about the denuclearization of North Korea, according to the Trump administration.)
Q2: Why is this meeting such a big deal? (For two reasons: (1) the fact that a US President and the Leader of North Korea even got together in the same room, to talk about foreign policy of any kind, is a big deal! No matter how you feel about Donald Trump and his approach to foreign policy (more on that in a bit), the meeting itself is significant for a Trump presidency. (2) Considering there’s even the slightest chance that denuclearization of North Korea is possible, is relatively significant.)
Q3: What actually came out of this meeting? (For the US, they got a promise from Kim Jong Un that North Korea would “work towards” denuclearization. In turn, North Korea wants a freeze on military exercises in South Korea and an eventual halt regarding sanctions on North Korea.)
Q4: Considering the US has wanted a denuclearized North Korea for a while now, this is good news, right? (It’s extremely good news that Donald Trump has gotten Kim Jong Un to agree with, in theory, to denuclearize North Korea. Of course, with everything, it’s the details that make everything so suspect.)
Q5: In theory then, if the US got exactly what it wanted – a denuclearized North Korea – why are some people so down on the meeting? (There are multiple legitimate – and some not so legitimate – reasons for people to be skeptical. One of the biggest reasons, that many have expressed, is that North Korea isn’t exactly the most reliable when it comes to promises of denuclearization. Back in 1994, the Clinton administration had originally gotten North Korea to accept an “Agreed Framework” that would freeze their nuclear capabilities in exchange for oil and foreign aid. The move ended up being incredibly unpopular, with Congressional Republicans essentially slowing down oil shipments and in efforts of “normalizing political and economic relations.” In 2002, the agreement between both countries had finally broken down with the Bush administration insisting that North Korea had continued their uranium enrichment program (a vital step for producing an atomic weapons). A year later in 2003, North Korea had officially left the non-proliferation treaty that it had signed. Even though the US essentially didn’t meet their end of the bargain in the 1994 “Agreed Framework”, how quickly North Korea was able to enrich uranium, in a time when they were theoretically breaking down their nuclear program, lead many experts to believe that North Korea never even started the denuclearization process. In other words, North Korea has promised denuclearization in the past, yet didn’t go through with it. So there’s a good reason why people should be skeptical about this new deal.)
Q6: Did the Trump administration actually make a “Hollywood trailer” that portrays the two leaders as action heroes and played it at the summit? (Yes, yes they did…)
Q7: Wow… it looks like Donald Trump really wants this to happen? (Yeah and that’s the worry. North Koreans have claimed that Trump agreed to lift sanctions and end military exercises in South Korea, before they would even have to begin the process of denuclearization (aka US concessions would have to come before North Korea would do anything). While there is no way of ever confirming if this actually happened or not – right now between the two parties, it’s a very much a “he said-she said” situation – Trump’s eagerness to take the meeting with Kim Jong Un had become a concern with many policy experts. To them, the US always had the leverage over North Korea in that it could offer them a vital key in entering the world stage: global legitimacy. With Trump meeting with Kim Jong Un so suddenly, many are saying that he gave them a sort of international legitimacy that could have been used as a bargaining chip. Yet to many, Trump had given that chip away in just agreeing to last week’s summit.)
Q8: So was North Korea’s human rights abuses even brought up? (In a word, no. Or as Donald Trump puts it…)
Q9: Then what was all of this exactly about? (It’s best to look at this meeting as a first step of a very. Very. Very. Long. Process. While true, Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un did sign an agreement, it’s mostly a declaration that they’re going to try – try being the operative word here – to live up to their agreement: North Korea denuclearizing and the US lifting sanctions and stopping military exercises in South Korea. However, that’s the best case scenario. The worst case scenario is that the US just legitimized a rogue nation like North Korea on the world stage, even though they have no real intentions of stopping their nuclear program.)
Q10: Was this meeting historic (or even important) as the media or the Trump administration originally claimed? (So even with the number of potential pitfalls that could still happen and the missteps taken thus far by the Trump administration, the meeting was still important, mostly because it made us reevaluate how we perceive North Korea on an international policy perspective. To the US, North Korea has been known in the past to be an irrational actor that makes its own rules and Kim Jong Un as someone that can’t be reasoned with. However with this recent summit, the US’ views of North Korea could potentially be changing, because if they were willing to sit down and even entertain the possibility of denuclearization; that means there is hope of North Korea one day no longer being a nuclear threat. If this summit did nothing else, it at least achieved that.)