Trump vows to end war games

China benefits as US, North Korea agree to work for denuclearisation

US President Donald Trump meets North Korean leader Kim Jong-un at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore yesterday
US President Donald Trump meets North Korean leader Kim Jong-un at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore yesterday
Image: Reuters

With US President Donald Trump setting the course for normalising ties with North Korea and even saying war games with South Korea would end, China appeared a winner from yesterday’s summit, as Japan tried to put a brave face on the outcome.

Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un pledged yesterday to work towards complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, and signed a comprehensive document at a landmark summit in Singapore.

In turn, Washington committed to provide security guarantees for North Korea, though the joint statement was light on specifics.

At a post-summit media conference, Trump said Washington would end provocative and costly military exercises with South Korea, a move that would rattle Seoul and Tokyo, which rely on the US military for their own security.

China, North Korea’s most important economic and diplomatic supporter despite its anger at Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile tests, wasted little time with a reminder that UN sanctions could be adjusted if North Korea behaved itself.

“The UN Security Council resolutions that have been passed say that if North Korea respects and acts in accordance with the resolutions, then sanction measures can be adjusted, including to pause or remove the relevant sanctions,” a Foreign Ministry spokesman, Geng Shuang, said at a daily news briefing.

China’s state-run Global Times newspaper said in an editorial that the time was right to consider an appropriate reduction of the sanctions.

Brad Glosserman, visiting professor at Japan’s Tama University, said China would be pleased with the outcome, as would North Korea.

“Kim – wants a photo op, gets it, got an invitation to the White House,” he said. “He has an open door to the weakening of sanctions.”

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe put a positive spin on the summit, welcoming the fact that Trump told a news conference he had raised the issue of Japanese abductees, though there was no mention of that in the document signed by Kim and Trump.

Yoji Koda, a retired admiral who commanded the Japanese naval fleet, and is a fellow at the Fairbank Centre for Chinese Studies at Harvard University, said the statement contained nothing new or concrete.

“One of the key points that Trump and his advisers made was that the US will not repeat the mistakes of previous deals,” he said.
“From reading this document, I don’t think the US will be successful.”

South Korea’s presidential office said it needed to seek clarity on Trump’s intentions regarding the stopping of joint military exercises.

South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in, who has been at the forefront of efforts to engage the North and Kim, pledged complete cooperation.

“My administration will spare no effort in cooperating with the United States, North Korea and the international community to ensure that the agreement can be implemented in its entirety,” Moon said in a statement.

But Koda, the retired admiral, said ending the exercises would be a clear mistake and was too early.

“Alliances are a key element of US global strategy and exercises are a right of the US to use to protect allied nations,” he said.

“The US should continue joint exercises, they are a signal to China too.”

China, which has long suggested a dual suspension whereby North Korea suspends its weapons tests and the US and South Korea suspend military drills, could effectively claim that as an outcome.

“This joint declaration is in line with the three principles of ‘no chaos, no war, and peaceful settlement’ proposed by the Chinese government,” Liang Yabin, an associate professor at Beijing’s Central Party School, said.

Regarding Pyongyang’s commitment to work towards denuclearising the Korean peninsula, Melissa Hanham, of the US-based Centre for Nonproliferation Studies, said on Twitter that North Korea had already promised to do this many times, adding the two sides still don’t agree on what denuclearisation means.

Asked about the issue, Trump said “we’re starting that process”.

“We’ll meet again,” Trump said after the signing ceremony.

For his part, Kim said the two Cold War foes had vowed to leave the past behind, pledging that the world would see a major change. – Reuters -AFP