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5 Steps to Take After Trump's North Korea Summit

Doug Bandow

Security, Asia

U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un meet in a one-on-one bilateral session at the start of their summit at the Capella Hotel on the resort island of Sentosa, Singapore June 12, 2018. Picture taken June 12, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Trump and Kim's on-off-on summit simultaneously changed everything—and nothing.

President Donald Trump and North Korea’s “chairman” Kim Jong-un met in Singapore. Their unlikely, on-off-on summit simultaneously changed everything—and nothing.

Their time together was short, little more than five hours. Nevertheless, the president tells us, Kim is “very smart,” “very talented” and “loves his country very much.” One wonders if President Trump, George W. Bush redux, peered into the Korean leader’s soul and saw something warm and fuzzy. After all, said the president, they had developed a “special bond” and formed an “excellent relationship.” Just think of the connection the two men might have made had they spent an entire day together!

Proving that it is not only the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) which turns hyperbole into an art form, the two leaders declared that “the US-DPRK summit—the first in history—was an epochal event of great significance.” Unlike those past South–North Korean summits, which dissolved in the mists of time. What could better encapsulate the importance of the current proceedings than a tearful Dennis Rodman lauding the meeting between his “special friend” and America’s president? Surely that made the event epochal, if nothing else.

Although the summit is an inevitable target for snark, it nevertheless was a positive development. Most importantly, the talks were a welcome change from the hostile posturing and war threats which dominated relations between the two governments last year. Instead of insulting one another, the two leaders committed to peaceful cooperation and denuclearization.

Furthermore, it will be much harder for President Trump to again threaten military action, which could trigger a full-scale Second Korean War. Sen. Lindsey Graham might believe that such a conflict would be no big deal since it would be “over there,” but that would offer cold comfort to South Koreans, Japanese, and Chinese, whose nations could end up battle zones—as well as North Koreans—who should not be needlessly sacrificed because of their government’s policies. Moreover, plenty of Americans, military personnel in combat as well as civilians caught in the crossfire, likely would die in any conflict. Launching attacks in the hope that everything would work out just right would be playing a fearsome geopolitical game of chicken with potentially millions of lives at stake.

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