There have been calls for the US President Donald Trump to be awarded a Nobel Peace Prize if North Korea ends its nuclear programme following Friday’s historic North-South talks. Sputnik discussed Mr Trump’s role in the rapprochement with Robert Winstanley-Chesters, a research fellow at the Australian National University’s College of Asia and the Pacific.
Sputnik: How much credit should President Trump take for the recent breakthrough on the Korean peninsula?
Mr Winstanley-Chesters: What has happened is the enormous change in the optics and the sort of mood. To an extent, the two Koreas themselves have been responsible for generating this mood and building an interesting pattern of optics.
North Korea has begun to talk, in a sense, in a totally different way about South Korea, to avoid intemperate language, to use different ways of speaking, and South Korea has attempted to make much more efforts towards a peaceful and harmonious relationship between [the states]. We saw that in the summit and the huge amount of effort that must have gone in making that happen. I think that Donald Trump, in a sense can take some credit for at least shifting the mood globally through his statement. This has not happened for a long time when the United States president actually suggested that he would meet the North Korean leader. So that possibility of there actually being a meeting, I think, has made a huge impact for both Koreas – and South Korea has made effort in the autumn to reach out to North Korea.
Sputnik: But then there’s also China. It seems like a whole list of different players played quite a significant role. What do you think is the most important, or the single most important player, or situation that accomplished this change in relations between the two Koreas?
Mr Winstanley-Chesters: As a North Korea watcher when I saw the beginning of this process unfold I thought that it would all come crashing down – the rapprochement around the Olympics would come crashing down when the South Korea-US joint military exercises began in April. But North Korea, I noticed, went out of its way to suggest that it knew that South Korea and the Americans were going to do these military exercises – and it was not really a problem and they could go ahead.
So something like that for me was huge, because previously that has been a very big issue whenever there’s been any rapprochement – the fact that the military exercises between the United States and South Korea has always been a huge issue for North Korea. But this time, they chose not to escalate the situation. Things like the Winter Olympics, and the engagements and the connections between the two Koreas were a huge change in the sort of mood. But I think North Korea’s acceptance of South Korea’s military exercises really smoothed the way, in my own opinion, for what might happen later.
Sputnik: I’m just wondering what you think about Mr Trump, as there’s been talk about that he should claim the Nobel Peace Prize, and that has been put forward by various people in the US government and by his supporters. Do you think that his contributions to the peace process in North Korea are noteworthy enough to qualify him for this kind of recognition?
Mr Winstanley-Chesters: The Noble Peace Prize is a difficult prize at the moment anyway, in a sense that my initial thing would be to say it’s been quite debased by, interestingly, political decisions in the past. For example, if you can give the prize to Barack Obama, a president who achieved very little peace anywhere and had a massive campaign of extrajudicial killing using drones, then you perhaps can give Donald Trump the peace prize. But if you look at the Nobel Peace Prize history it has always been given to people who are quite difficult in a historical sense and also politically quite difficult.