A handshake for peace

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Kim shakes hands with Trump during the signing ceremony of a joint statement in Singapore yesterday. – Xinhua

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un pledged yesterday to work toward complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula while Washington committed to provide security guarantees for its old enemy.

But a joint statement signed at the end of their historic summit in Singapore gave few details on how either goal would be achieved.

“President Trump committed to provide security guarantees to the DPRK and Chairman Kim Jong Un reaffirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula,” said the statement.

DPRK is the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the formal name of North Korea.

Trump said he expected the denuclearisation process to start “very, very quickly”. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and North Korean officials would hold follow-up negotiations “at the earliest possible date”, the statement said.

Political analysts said the summit yielded only symbolic results and nothing tangible.

“It is unclear if further negotiations will lead to the end goal of denuclearisation,” said Anthony Ruggiero, senior fellow of Washington’s Foundation for Defense of Democracies think tank. “This looks like a restatement of where we left negotiations more than 10 years ago and not a major step forward.”

The document also made no mention of the international sanctions that have crippled North Korea’s economy for pursuing its nuclear weapons programme.

Nor was there any reference to finally sign a peace treaty. North Korea and the US were on opposite sides in the 1950-53 Korean War and are technically still at war, as the conflict, in which millions of people died, was concluded only with a truce.

But the joint statement did say the two sides had agreed to recovering the remains of prisoners of war and of those missing in action and repatriating them.

China, the third party to the truce, said it hoped North Korea and the US could reach a basic consensus on denuclearisation.

“At the same time, there needs to be a peace mechanism for the peninsula to resolve North Korea’s reasonable security concerns,” China’s top diplomat, State Councillor Wang Yi, said in Beijing.

If the joint statement does lead to a lasting detente, it could fundamentally change the security landscape of Northeast Asia, just as former US President Richard Nixon visit to Beijing in 1972 led to the transformation of China.

However, the dollar jumped to a 3-week top yesterday and Asian shares rose on news of the agreement.

Before signing what Trump described as a “comprehensive” document, Kim said the two leaders had a historic meeting “and decided to leave the past behind. The world will see a major change.”

Asked whether he would invite Kim to the White House, Trump said: “Absolutely, I will.”

He called Kim “very smart” and a “very worthy, very hard negotiator.”

“I learned he’s a very talented man. I also learned that he loves his country very much.”

During a post-lunch stroll through the gardens of the Singapore hotel where the summit was held, Trump said the meeting had gone “better than anybody could have expected”.

Kim stood silently alongside, but the North Korean leader had earlier described their summit as a “a good prelude to peace”.

Both men walked to Trump’s bullet-proof limousine, nicknamed “The Beast”, and looked in at the rear seat, with Trump apparently showing Kim something inside.

They appeared cautious and serious when they first arrived for the summit at the Capella hotel on Singapore’s Sentosa, a resort island with luxury hotels, a casino, manmade beaches and a Universal Studios theme park.

But, with cameras of the world’s press trained on them, they displayed an initial atmosphere of bonhomie as they met on the verandah of the Capella, a refurbished 19th century British regimental officers’ mess.

Kim was heard telling Trump through a translator: “I think the entire world is watching this moment. Many people in the world will think of this as a scene from a fantasy…science fiction movie.”

As the two leaders met, Singapore navy vessels, and air force Apache helicopters patrolled, while fighter jets and an Gulfstream 550 early warning aircraft.

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