Singapore

Experts hope Trump-Kim summit produces more than symbolic photo-op

As the world holds its breath ahead of today's Trump-Kim summit, experts hope for at least a blueprint for denuclearisation and peace

Like a bolt out of the blue, the news broke out of Washington on March 8 that a rapprochement between the two sworn enemies was possible, when US President Donald Trump accepted an invitation from North Korea's Kim Jong Un to meet.

A summit was on, then off, then on again, and the world held its breath as Mr Trump and Mr Kim's lieutenants chalked up thousands of air miles crisscrossing time zones, with high-level talks going on in capitals such as Beijing, Tokyo, Washington, Pyongyang and Seoul.

Singapore then answered a call, and today, what was once thought impossible will become reality when Mr Trump and Mr Kim meet at 9am at the Capella Singapore in Sentosa.

Those who advocate peace hope the first meeting between a sitting US president and a North Korean leader will produce more than just a photocall and a handshake.

Professor Kim Joon Hyung of Handong Global University in Pohang, South Korea, who specialises in Korean-American relations, said yesterday: "Both leaders are finally sitting at the negotiation table, I don't want to underestimate that, but that is not enough for the summit to be considered a success."

In order for there to be "real success", there cannot be any more vague statements, but a declaration at least of a timeline and for the parties to reach an agreement over what has been termed as the Complete, Verifiable and Irreversible Dismantlement of nuclear weapons, said Prof Kim at a panel discussion organised by the Korea Press Foundation.

Professor Koh Yu Hwan, director of The Institute for North Korean Studies at Dongguk University in Seoul, told The New Paper that the summit will be a success if the two nations come to an agreement over denuclearisation and the maintenance of peace and security.

Speaking at the Korea Media Centre through a translator, he said yesterday: "The most important thing is the starting step to denuclearisation and what actions and processes will be taken for the official ending of the Korean war and the removal of (North Korea's) intercontinental ballistic missiles."

TENSION

After decades of animosity between the two nations, tensions came to a head late last year with the successful launch of North Korea's Hwasong-15 missile, theoretically placing the continental US in its crosshairs.

Mr Trump pressed for more pressure on Mr Kim's regime and new sanctions were imposed by the United Nations, which Pyongyang called "an act of war".

Dr Hoo Chiew-Ping, Senior Lecturer in Strategic Studies and International Relations at the National University of Malaysia, believes that both leaders have a vested interest in the success of the summit.

Mr Trump is banking on becoming the American president that finally resolves the North Korean problem, she said, while Mr Kim will hope to gain legitimacy on the world stage by striking a deal with the US on an equal footing.

At the panel discussion, Dr Kim Ji Yoon, Asan Institute for Policy Studies research fellow, pointed that North Korea's economic woes is its main concern.

She said: "North Korea desperately needs investment from Korean companies and other countries.

"There is pressure from the people to improve the economic situation in North Korea.

"This is a critical year for Kim and he needs to do something economically and have the sanctions removed."

Dr Hoo believes Mr Kim thinks he has some sway.

"Kim Jong Un was never really interested in negotiating until he had the trump card in hand, and that is the completed nuclear weapons programme," said Dr Hoo.

"So I think he is going to ask for a very high price from the United States if they now want him to reverse whatever achievements he has obtained through the nuclear tests and also missile tests."

No one knows what will come out of the meeting, but as the eyes of the world focus on a summit in Singapore, there is that sense of anticipation when history is at the doorstep.

WORLD