After almost seven decades of intense enmity, the United States and North Korea yesterday opened a new chapter in bilateral relations with a historic summit, unprecedented and unthinkable only a few months ago, which met the expectations of both Donald Trump and North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un. The two chief executives met in Singapore and talked for four hours (the first 40 minutes only with interpreters) before signing a joint statement.
After the G-7 disaster in Canada, Trump was risking his international reputation in Singapore. He demonstrated that he could reach where other politicians cannot and silenced the sector of the Republicans who have had enough of the unpredictable White House tenant. For his part, Kim took a giant step towards being recognised as a legitimate leader by the international community.
However, the small print of the agreement remains in the hands of diplomats and civil servants, who will have to negotiate long and hard to achieve the real and effective denuclearisation of North Korea. That is because the document, in which Trump agrees to provide security guarantees to North Korea if Kim commits to denuclearisation, does not establish a schedule or clarify what security guarantees Washington is offering.
Some experts have noted that Washington’s claim to demand a “complete, verifiable and irreversible” denuclearisation is not mentioned, whereas Pyongyang’s demand that disarmament be staggered is accepted. The agreement makes no mention of human rights and, as a concession, includes the North Koreans’ commitment to recover the remains of 6,000 war prisoners who disappeared in combat during the Korean War (1950-1953).