16 Jun 2018          home | subject timeline

Sequence and the Singapore Summit

If I were betting, I'd put my money on Trump's June 12 agreement with Kim Jong-un at Singapore as eventually successful for the US compared to the attempts of previous US administrations.

Pundits are complaining about a lack of substance in the agreement. One of those complaining is Fareed Zakaria, who wrote in the Washington Post on the 15th:

The media got it wrong. The real headline of the Trump-Kim summit ... should have been: “U.S. weakens its 70-year alliance with South Korea.”

As I see it, the key to the issue is reducing North Korea's fear of the US. It's that fear that has led Kim Jong-un's crazy embrace of nuclear weapons and his rocketry. And Kim Jong-un's description of friendly relations as the first step toward solving his differences with the US appears correct. Sequence is involved. The substance some are looking for can come in time as Kim's relaxes and his place in the world community improves. Americans don't need to fear weakness — a paranoiac's malady. The frightened can stop shaking. The US Navy and Air Force will still have its nuclear capability as a deterrent. We in the US need not fear as did some hawkish Republicans who denounced President Reagan as the Kremlin's useful idiot during his negotiations with Gorbachev back in the late 1980s.

We don't need to posture about our superiority regarding democracy and human rights. We can just live it, and we can expect moves toward democracy to come only slowly. That many have died of starvation in North Korea may eventually be as old and as insignificant as Stalin's inhumane policies and Mao's dysfunctional communes.

We have pundits who want to appear knowledgeable, and they complain that President Trump is ignoring details. But Trump on this one appears to me to be correct. What we can hope for is that technical details don't become stumbling blocks. If we are brave, patient as well as persistent, there can be success.

In 1951-53, the Chinese and Americans were killing each other in Korea. China joined the fighting in Korea afraid of US intentions and the clamor by some in the US to expand the war against North Korea's invasion of the South into a "war of liberation" into China. The Korean armistice in 1953 dampened those enthusiasms in the US. Attitudes in China and the US changed. There was President Nixon's opening to China. Fears subsided. Technicalities aggravating relations between the two countries were overcome, and we live with some that remain. Fear of the US has been the driving force behind Kim Jong-un's sabre-rattling. Let us look forward to reducing his fear and to his better relations with the United States.

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Copyright © 2018 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.