The historic summit meet between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un at the Capella hotel on Sentosa Island in Singapore has yielded a joint statement in which Trump has committed to providing security assurances to North Korea, while Jong-un has “reaffirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.” At a press conference later, Trump also indicated that war games with South Korea would be suspended.
While the agreement itself did not provide a concrete direction for the future, the countries did agree to hold “follow-on negotiations led by the U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, and a relevant high-level DPRK official, at the earliest possible date, to implement the outcomes of the U.S.-DPRK summit.” The summit itself is likely to be significant in ending the international isolation of North Korea, and the establishment of trade relations between it and various countries. In the aftermath of the summit, the negotiations between North and South Korea are also likely to proceed at a much faster pace.
Speaking at a press conference later, Trump said he would eventually visit Pyongyang, as well as invite Jong-un to Washington.
The statement was signed after a one-on-one meeting between the two leaders who were accompanied only by translators, followed by another meeting including top advisors of both Trump and Kim.
The four particular points agreed upon in the joint statement are:
The United States and the Democratic People’s’ Republic of Korea (DPRK) commit to establish new U.S.-DPRK relations in accordance with the desire of the peoples of the two countries for peace and prosperity.
United States and the DPRK will join their efforts to build a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.
Reaffirming the April 27, 2018 Panmunjom Declaration, the DPRK commits to work towards complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
The United States and the DPRK commit to recovering POW/MIA remains, including the immediate repatriation of those already identified.
While the first two points agreed upon are generic statements of intent, the third point - denuclearization - was not elaborated on. The North Korean state has consistently maintained that the denuclearization of the peninsula will be contingent on the US ending the nuclear umbrella that encompasses South Korea and Japan. While the United States did not publicly give any assurances on the issue, Trump’s disavowal of the war games with South Korea, calling them “expensive” and “provocative”, is significant.
The North Koreans are believed to envision a step-by-step process towards complete denuclearization, in which every step taken towards the goal will be reciprocated by the US with a corresponding move such as reducing its military maneuvers in the region or the easing of economic sanctions.
Asked about the sanctions regime, Trump said at the press conference, “The sanctions will come off when we are sure the nukes are no longer a factor,” adding that denuclearization, “takes a long time scientifically”, indicating that the US economic pressure on North North Korea would continue.
However, China has already indicated that it is time to ease the sanctions. Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said “The relevant resolutions passed by the UN Security Council stipulate that … adjustment to the sanctions has to be made in accordance with the situation on how North Korea has implemented the agreement – including suspending or removing relevant sanctions measures."
“The Chinese side believes that … the actions taken by the UN Security Council should support the current diplomatic dialogues and efforts in progressing towards denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula,” he added.
One concrete point which both leaders agreed on involved the repatriation of the remains of prisoners of the Korean War of 1953.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called the meeting a “step on a comprehensive resolution” and thanked the US President for raising the issue of alleged abductions of Japanese nationals by North Korea during the Cold War to train its spies, adding “I’m determined that Japan will have to directly face North Korea and resolve [the abduction issue] bilaterally.”
South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who played a very important role in ensuring the summit took place, complimented Trump and Kim for taking “a daring step towards change.”
“Building upon the agreement we reached today, we will take a new path going forward. Leaving dark days of war and conflict behind, we will write a new chapter of peace and cooperation. We will be there together with North Korea along the way,” Moon said, adding, “This is just a beginning and there may be many difficulties ahead, but we will never go back to the past again and never give up on this bold journey.”