The statement said that North Korea “commits to work toward complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula,” with no specifics provided. This sounds promising, but it’s been Pyongyang’s position for decades and it’s no different to Kim’s undertaking to his South Korean counterpart at a summit two months ago.
The “peninsula” includes South Korea, too. In North Korea’s definition, it also includes the country that protects South Korea under a nuclear umbrella, the US.
So, to North Korea, denuclearising the peninsula has always meant that the US must withdraw its nuclear guarantee for South Korea.
Kim didn’t even commit to continuing his existing, voluntary halt to new nuclear tests and ballistic missile launches.
Indeed, the only apparent new concession in the joint statement is from the US side: “President Trump committed to provide security guarantees to the DPRK,” or Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. No detail was supplied.
Still, where there’s life, there’s hope, and the pair agreed to keep the dialogue alive. Officials will now work on the detail, the leaders said. The reaction of the region’s financial markets was a fair verdict on the outcome – currency and share markets reacted to the day’s events positively, but with only marginal gains.
Both leaders are under pressure at home and desperately wanted to be able to claim success from their meeting. Kim’s plan to engage the US President in negotiations had opponents at home in his regime; he replaced three senior commanders accordingly last week.
And Trump is under investigation by a special counsel at home, and under fire from most major US allies abroad. He faces a searing test at congressional midterm elections in five months and has a limited list of achievements. It suits both men to hail their summit as a victory.