17:06 GMT +312 December 2019
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    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.

    Nukes, New Leadership Align to Make Trump-Kim Summit a Reality

    © AFP 2019 / Saul Loeb
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    After nearly five hours of talks between US President Donald Trump and North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un, Trump surprised reporters by stating that the US would cease military exercises on the Korean Peninsula, a longstanding goal for Pyongyang - and one that wasn’t included the document the leaders signed.

    Hyun Lee, an activist with the Solidarity Committee for Democracy and Peace in Korea and writer at ZoomInKorea.org, joins Radio Sputnik's Loud & Clear to discuss the summit and what factors led to its realization.

    "When they sat down to talk, Kim Jong Un made a comment about leaving the past behind. He also said this has not been an easy road to get to this point, there were many obstacles that we had to overcome. And when we look at the history of US-North Korean relations, there really have been lots of obstacles," Lee told Loud & Clear co-hosts John Kiriakou, Walter Smolarek and Brian Becker.

    ​"[G]oing back all the way to the Reagan administration, North Korea proposed a summit with the United States. The US ignored that proposal. Even before that, the Carter administration ignored North Korea's proposal for a summit. The Ford administration, before that, ignored [North Korea]," Lee noted.

    "Last night's summit was decades in the making," she said, adding that North Korea's historical experience with the US led it to the realization that "the only way it could achieve fundamental resolution of its conflict with the United States, meaning ending the Korean War, it had to bring the leader of the United States to the table. And the only way to do that was to successfully complete its nuclear deterrence, which they announced they did at the end of last year."

    But it wasn't just last year's saber-rattling that turned the tide: Lee says the summit became a reality because "three things aligned." 

    "One: North Korea completed its nuclear deterrence, which finally gave North Korea the leverage it needed to bring the US to the table and also be able to negotiate on an equal footing," Lee told Loud & Clear. "The second thing is that we have in the United States a leader that is not part of the traditional neoliberal establishment and is kind of naive to US geopolitical interests in the region. Just by him calling the war games ‘provocative' shows that he is coming to this with sort-of naive eyes."

    (After the leaders signed the agreement, Trump stunned reporters with another concession, one long-desired by North Korea. "We will stop the war games [with South Korea and allies], which will save us a tremendous amount of money. Unless and until we see the future negotiations is not going along like it should," Trump said. "We will be saving a tremendous amount of money. Plus, It is very provocative.")

    Lee continued: "The third thing is a leader in South Korea that also has his own economic interests in engaging with the North." South Korean President Moon Jae In was elected last year after the impeachment of predecessor Park Geun Hye and assumed office a little over a year prior to his own historic meeting with Kim, having campaigned on the prospect of peace. That meeting took place in April on the demilitarized zone between the two Koreas.

    But Lee suggests that little has changed as far as the North is concerned. North Korea has "been consistent in its message to the United States for the past decades, you know, ‘We want, in exchange for denuclearization, a fundamental resolution to the Korean War,'" she said.

    However, Kim has made some significant concessions as well. "They've stopped their nuclear missile tests, they've dismantled their nuclear test site; apparently, according to Trump, they also announced yesterday that they'll also be dismantling their engine test site for their missile." 

    As per the document, it signals hope for a genuine peace process, Lee suggested. Initially, she says she found it "disappointing." 

    "I was like ‘Oh, what is this? It's so sparse.' But the more that I looked at it, I realized that the agreement, when it's stripped of all extraneous details… I think it clearly shows what the two leaders see as the main priorities. And the top priority is establishing new relations and a peace regime, so I think this means a fundamental change from seven decades of war and hostility between the two countries," she told Loud & Clear.

    While lacking in detail, the agreement opens the door to reconciliation in a way not yet seen in any prior negotiations, which the document suggests is the "main goal" of both leaders. "Once you resolve what's at the root of the conflict, which is the unresolved status of the Korean War, then all the rest will follow: denuclearization, retrieving the remains of the servicemen, human rights, all those things will follow, but the main thing is to fundamentally change the relationship from war to peace," Lee said.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


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