After months of planning, U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un finally met in Singapore and held a much-anticipated summit.
The meeting ended with the signing of a joint declaration that – in broad terms – includes a DPRK commitment to the “denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula” and the establishment of security guarantees from Washington in return.
The statement also sees the two leaders “consent to establish new U.S.-DPRK relations” to “join their efforts to build a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.”
Following the summit, key regional actors and global bodies reacted to the joint declaration and Tuesday’s events writ large in various ways.
While the four key remaining countries involved in the original 6-party denuclearization talks all spoke positively about the summit, each had their own unique take on events.
CHINA TAKES CREDIT, AIM AT SANCTIONS
China’s foreign ministry welcomed the summit and supported the developments.
“This is what China has been looking forward to seeing and striving for,” ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said on Tuesday.
“China hopes that the leaders of the U.S. and the DPRK will remove disruptions, build mutual trust, overcome obstacles and reach basic consensus on and take substantive steps towards promoting and realizing the denuclearization and establishing the peace mechanism of the Peninsula,” he added.
China has consistently vocalised its position that the issues between the DPRK and U.S. should be solved via dialogue and diplomacy, advocating for a “freeze-for-freeze” arrangement that would see Washington suspend joint U.S.-ROK military exercises in return for the suspension of missile and nuclear tests by North Korea.
Following the summit, Trump stated that the U.S. would stop the exercises – which he called “war games” – as diplomacy with the DPRK continued, and also referenced a moratorium on missile tests imposed by North Korea for several months.
China was quick to claim credit.
“China put forth the ‘suspension for suspension’ initiative and ‘dual-track’ approach. The facts have proven that the China-proposed ‘suspension for suspension’ initiative has been materialized and now the situation is also moving forward in the direction of the ‘dual-track’ approach,” Shuang claimed.
“It is fair to say that the relevant approach and initiative proposed by China and its endeavors in frequent interactions with other parties have played a positive and constructive role in getting the situation on the Peninsula to where it is now,” he added.
The U.S. policy of maximum pressure required sanctions enforcement and compliance from China, which represents over 90% of North Korea’s trade.
But while it appeared that China had stepped up its enforcement of UN Security Council resolutions in 2017, recent signs provide data points that suggest a more mixed picture on this front – something that Trump alluded to in his post-summit press conference on Tuesday.
It is perhaps no surprise, then, that China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) called for the relaxation of sanctions against the DPRK in the aftermath of the summit.
“Regarding the issue of lifting sanctions on the DPRK… the relevant Security Council resolutions stipulate that we shall adjust sanction measures as may be needed in light of the DPRK’s compliance, including suspending or lifting relevant sanction measures,” Geng Shuang said.
“China always believes that sanction itself is not the end, and the Security Council’s actions should support and conform to the diplomatic dialogue and the endeavour for the denuclearization of the Peninsula at this point, and promote the political settlement of the Peninsula issue,” he added.
RUSSIA AND ITS ROADMAP
Russia also “welcomed” the developments between the U.S. and North Korea in a statement issued by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs on Tuesday.
“We welcome the talks held by the Chairman of the State Affairs Commission of the DPRK Kim Jong-un and the United States; President Donald Trump on June 12 in Singapore,” the statement read.
“We hold it that the normalization of U.S.-North Korean relations, the desire for which is reflected in the final joint statement of the parties, is an integral part of the complex settlement of the problems of the Korean peninsula, including the nuclear one,” it added.
Russia praised Trump for saying that the staging of joint military exercises was inappropriate during the diplomatic process and said that their suspension was necessary for creating an atmosphere of trust.
While China did not mention Russia in its praise of the “dual-track” approach in Tuesday’s statement, the two countries co-endorsed such a roadmap at the UN Security Council repeatedly.
“In the light of the fact that the implementation of the first and second phase of the Russian-Chinese roadmap is already underway, we urge our partners to start working on the mode of multilateral consultations whose ultimate goal would be to create a solid peace and security mechanism accommodating for the legitimate interests of all the states of Northeast Asia,” the statement concluded.
JAPANESE ABDUCTEES HIGH ON THE AGENDA
Japan has been a stalwart partner of the U.S. in its pressure campaign against the DPRK and has consistently called for the full denuclearization of North Korea.
In its efforts to pressure the North Korean government to this end, Japan has deployed and used surveillance assets to detect sanctions breaches occurring on the high-seas, including prohibited ship-to-ship transfers.
While previously adopting a skeptical tone when discussing North Korea’s diplomatic overtures this year, Abe appears to have taken a leaf from Trump’s book following the summit, describing the joint declaration as significant and saying it contains a commitment by Kim to abandon his nuclear weapons, despite the vague language within the statement.
“There is great meaning in Chairman Kim’s clearly confirming to President Trump the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” Abe told the press on Tuesday.
“I support this as a first step to the comprehensive resolution of issues concerning North Korea,” he added.
What appeared to be of primary concern for the Japanese, however, was the pervasive and outstanding issue of Japanese abductees, which Tokyo has sought to resolve with Pyongyang in the past with limited successes.
The Japanese government has said that North Korea kidnapped 17 of its nationals in the 1970s and 1980s; so far only five have returned and 12 are unaccounted for.
After the summit, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted that the American delegation raised the issue of Japanese abductees during their meetings with their North Korean counterparts.
“I highly appreciate that President Trump determinably raised the issue of North Korea’s abductions of Japanese citizens in the summit talks,” Abe said on Tuesday
“I am determined that Japan has to face up to North Korea and solve this issue through bilateral talks,” he added, saying that “Japan has to solve the abduction issue ultimately through bilateral negotiations as our real responsibility.”
SOUTH KOREA PRAISES JOB WELL DONE
South Korea and President Moon Jae-in have invested a lot of time and effort throughout the year in engaging the North Korean government. This has resulted in two inter-Korean summits moving forward relations between the divided states.
Moon, however, has also been working hard to realize a U.S.-DPRK summit and it was an ROK delegation that informed Trump of Kim’s interest in meeting and subsequently announced the President’s acceptance of the offer.
As a result, the summit was met with glowing reviews by Moon on Tuesday, who said it was “a historic event that has helped break down the last remaining Cold War legacy on earth.”
“It is a great victory achieved by both the United States and the two Koreas, and a huge step forward for people across the world who long for peace,” Moon said.
“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,” he added, while offering his support to both parties in order to continue the current diplomatic momentum.
While there was joy expressed at the realization of the summit, there was also an element of surprise and disapointment after Trump’s announcement that the U.S. would be cancelling joint military exercises – apparently without consoling their South Korean partners.
“At this time, need clarification of the precise meaning and intention behind President Trump’s remarks,” a spokesperson for the ROK MND said in a statement.
Also on Tuesday, Second Deputy Chief of the Presidential National Security Office Nam Gwan-pyo said that – as yet – “There is no single change in the suspension of the South-U.S. joint military exercise compared to the past.”
Pompeo is due in South Korea on Wednesday and is likely to clarify comments further.
THE UN CALLS FOR PATIENCE
A statement, attributed to the Spokesman for the UN Secretary-General António Guterres, “welcomed the holding of the Summit between the leaders of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and the United States,” describing it as “an important milestone in the advancement of sustainable peace and the complete and verifiable denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula.”
While endorsing the dialogue, the statement said that it will require patience in order to implement the joint declarations signed by Trump and Kim as well as previous relevant agreements.
“The Secretary-General urges all concerned parties to seize this momentous opportunity and reiterates his readiness to fully support the ongoing process,” it added.
Critically, while referencing relevant UN Security Council resolutions, the spokesperson did not mention sanctions measures directly, despite China’s insistence that these be reviewed given North Korea’s diplomatic detente.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
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