Donald Trump's love of adulation, Kim Jong-un's need for recognition: Analysts guess outcome of US-North Korea summit

After months of tensions, trading barbs and uncertainty over whether they would meet at all, the much-anticipated summit between President of the United States Donald Trump and the supreme leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-un, is finally here.

Tensions between the two countries escalated in 2017 after Pyongyang stepped up efforts to boost its nuclear weapons programme. Given the number of times, Trump had warned Kim against expanding the country’s nuclear arsenal, discussing denuclearisation of the North is high on the US’ agenda at the 12 June meeting in Singapore.

People watch a TV screen showing file footage of US president Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Seoul. AP

People watch a TV screen showing file footage of US president Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Seoul. AP

Even after the White House confirmed the summit, the run-up to it was not without roadblocks. On several occasions in May, the US had said it was likely that the meeting would be delayed, but the biggest hurdle was when the US had called off the summit. The move was in reaction to North Korea’s criticism of US vice president Mike Pence’s statement that the country could meet the same fate as Libya if it failed to come to a nuclear deal with the US.

Earlier in May, North Korea, too, had threatened to cancel the meeting in protest against the joint military exercise the US had conducted with South Korea.

Given the uncertainty and the constant back and forth, there has been much speculation the world over about the possible outcomes of the Trump-Kim meeting, especially about whether Pyongyang would agree to complete denuclearisation. Media houses and analysts have had a lot to say on the 12 June summit, attempting to explain and highlight its significance.

Since his election as president in November 2018, several media houses have been vehement critics of the US president and his policies—unswayed by his constant “FAKE NEWS” attacks—and they made no exception with their comments on the Trump-Kim meeting.

Unpredictable outcome

The most common prediction that most publications made was, ironically, the unpredictability of the outcome of the Trump-Kim summit, given how both leaders tend to be mavericks.

In an op-ed, the Washington Post emphasises how the US president “has shown an ability to develop seemingly good relationships with some world leaders, and then to undermine them with unexpected words or actions”. In another article, the newspaper does not hide its disdain for Trump’s “zero prep work” for the meeting and also credits Kim Jong-un as “the real artist” of the summit. “Kim wants recognition for North Korea as a country, recognition for his family’s right to rule it as a personal fiefdom and, ultimately, recognition of North Korea’s status as a nuclear-armed power,” the newspaper writes.

The cover of this week's edition of The Economis. Twitter/@TheEconomist

The cover of this week's edition of The Economis. Twitter/@TheEconomist

The Economist and CNN do not predict a favourable result for the Trump-Kim summit either. In this week’s edition of the magazine, The Economist depicts Trump swinging on a wrecking ball—Miley Cyrus-style—and in its report warns that Trump’s strategy may work in favour of his “America First” policy but risks a lonely America in the long run.

A CNN analyst, in a report titled ‘Four steps for a successful Trump-Kim summit’, highlights how “it is still difficult to predict how any summit will go (especially with two unpredictable leaders such as Trump and Kim)”. But he rightly points out that Trump “appears more interested in achieving a deal with North Korea than he is in maintaining peace with some of our oldest allies”. The article also stresses the need for confidentiality -- meaning Trump will have to resist tweeting the minutes of the meeting.

In its illustrative preview of what the two leaders aim to achieve at the summit, the BCC said what most have been thinking – “Frankly, it’s not yet clear.” The article titled ‘Trump and Kim – The meeting the world's been waiting for’ also noted one subject that went untouched by other media houses — “What will almost certainly NOT be talked about is North Korea's human rights record.”

The Global Times of China noted the how a positive outcome of the Trump-Kim summit in Singapore would end “hostilities in the Korean Peninsula”, and that “both Washington and Pyongyang need to show flexibility to ensure that they can find consensus”. In an op-ed, the Associated Press has expressed doubts that Kim “would fully relinquish his nuclear arsenal, which he may see as the guarantor of his survival”.

South Korean national news agency Yonhap warned of the consequences there would be if Trump walked out of “the historic summit without a written agreement” ahead of the mid-term elections.”

USA Today hopeful of a successful summit

The commemorative coin issued ahead of the US-North Korea summit. Reuters

The commemorative coin issued ahead of the US-North Korea summit. Reuters

Unlike most other publications, USA Today had a different outlook of the Trump-Kim meeting. “The upcoming summit between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un stands a decent chance of success, even though the administration has flouted all the traditional rules of good summit planning,” reads the report.

The article also talks about how President of South Korea Moon Jae-in “is heavily invested in” and President of China President Xi Jinping “stands to benefit” from a successful summit. Positive results would do away with the need for South Korea to have to choose between “solidarity with the US” and stability in the Korean peninsula. “Beijing would welcome the further relaxation of sanctions and North Korea’s diplomatic isolation,” the report says.

The world now needs to wait for Trump and Kim to finally meet. Despite all the analyses and speculation around the summit in Singapore, one can only guess the outcome of the historic event, given the unpredictability of the two leaders. As the Washington Post points out in one of its op-eds: “It could be years before anyone can fully judge whether the Singapore summit put the two countries on a path to success.”


Updated Date: Jun 12, 2018 18:21 PM

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