Nothing new or tangible in Trump-Kim commitment

8:43 pm on 12 June 2018

Analysis - US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un have agreed to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, while Washington committed to provide security guarantees for its old enemy.

But a joint statement signed at the end of their historic summit in Singapore gave few details on exactly how either goal would be achieved.

US President Donald Trump and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un participate in a signing ceremony as part of the US-North Korea summit, at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa Island in Singapore on June 12, 2018.

Photo: AFP / 2018 Anadolu Agency

"President Trump committed to provide security guarantees to the DPRK (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) and Kim Jong-un reaffirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula," the statement said.

Mr Trump said he expected the denuclearization process to start "very, very quickly".

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and North Korean officials would hold follow-up negotiations "at the earliest possible date", the statement said.

North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un (L) and US President Donald Trump (R) together during a break in their talks at the historic US-North Korea summit, at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump together during a break in their talks. Photo: AFP PHOTO / The Straits Times / Kevin LIM

But political analysts said the summit had yielded only symbolic results and nothing really new or tangible.

Victoria University strategic studies professor Robert Ayson said he saw the meeting as more of a PR opportunity for Kim Jong-un "just by getting a handshake with the president, that's a major victory for Kim", he said.

North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump after taking part in a signing ceremony at the end of their historic US-North Korea summit, at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore.

North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump after taking part in a signing ceremony at the end of their historic US-North Korea summit, at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore. Photo: AFP

Nor was there any reference to finally signing a peace treaty.

The US and North Korea are technically still at war. The Korean War raged across the peninsula in the early 1950s and killed millions, ending in a truce.

But the joint statement signed in Singapore did move towards a solution to the long-running and vexed issue of recovering the remains of prisoners of war, and repatriating them.

The two leaders shook hands and posed for photographs, before moving inside the hotel to talk to reporters.

The two leaders shook hands and posed for photographs, before moving inside the hotel to talk to reporters. Photo: AFP

China, the third party involved in the Korean War, said it hoped North Korea and the United States could reach a basic consensus on denuclearization.

"At the same time, there needs to be a peace mechanism for the peninsula to resolve North Korea's reasonable security concerns," China's top diplomat, State Councillor Wang Yi, told reporters in Beijing.

The joint statement, while very similar to many signed over past decades, could fundamentally change the security landscape of Northeast Asia, just as former US President Richard Nixon's visit to Beijing in 1972 led to the transformation of China.

But it's too early to call it a turning point.

US President Donald Trump (R) gestures as he meets with North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un (L) at the start of their historic US-North Korea summit, at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore on June 12, 2018.

US President Donald Trump (R) gestures as he meets with North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un (L) at the start of their historic US-North Korea summit, at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore on June 12, 2018. Photo: AFP

For both leaders, the day has been marked down as an unmitigated success. Mr Kim gets a PR triumph, while committing his country to little, and certainly no commitment that cannot be wriggled out of.

For Mr Trump, his apparent new bromance with a ruthless dictator could be his own Neville Chamberlain moment, albeit with a document that does not appear to break any new ground.

The fact the meeting occurred, and both men left on good terms, is surely the best result from a political quagmire that only a few months ago was peppered with personal insults and military threats.

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