Singapore/New Delhi: US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un held a historic summit on Tuesday that committed the Asian nation to “work toward complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula" in exchange of security guarantees, including a halt to American wargames in the region.
A joint statement issued after the talks did not give too many details but was hailed by Japan, South Korea and the European Union.
In a surprise announcement, Trump told a news conference after the summit talks in Singapore—the first between the two foes —that the US would halt military exercises with South Korea, often described by North Korea as a rehearsal for invasion.
“Under the circumstances where we’re negotiating a very comprehensive agreement, I think it’s inappropriate to be having wargames," Trump told reporters, adding that “at some point" he also wanted to withdraw the over-30,000 US troops stationed in South Korea.
Earlier in the day, the US also “committed to provide security guarantees" to North Korea.
Asked about denuclearization—the crux of the summit—Trump said, “we’re starting that process", adding that it would begin “very, very quickly." He also said there would be a process of verification by US and international experts, but gave no more details. US sanctions would remain in place until Washington had seen progress, Trump said.
The text of the agreement made no mention of previous US demands for “complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation"—referring to the scrapping of weapons and committing North Korea to inspections. But Trump said he “absolutely" would be willing to invite Kim to the White House—seen as a sign of success of their talks
Analysts were divided on the outcome of the summit. Trump’s pledge to halt wargames triggered criticism.
“Two more Trump concessions just in this presser: stopping US-S Korea military exercises and hope to withdraw US troops from SK," tweeted Robert Kelly, professor of political science at Pusan National University. “And what have we gotten from NK for these?" he asked.
Some analysts pointed to previous agreements between the US and North Korea that had not worked, particularly an agreement produced by six-party talks held in September 2005, when George W. Bush was US president.
“Bush Adm Sep 2005 Jt Stmt: NK commits to abandon all nuc wpns & existing nuc pgms, return at an early date to treaty on non-prolif of nuclear wpns & to IAEA safeguards," tweeted Paul T. Haenle, director of the Beijing-based Carnegie-Tsinghua Center and former US national security council China director under presidents Bush and Obama. “Trump ‘historic’ summit: NK commits to ‘work towards complete denuc of Kor Peninsula.’ Which bar is higher?" Haenle questioned.
Former Indian ambassador to South Korea Skand Tayal said the summit between Trump—seen as the leader of the world’s most powerful democracy—and Kim, the third generation scion of a dynastic dictatorship, reduces the importance of China as a peace broker.
“But if the US withdraws troops from South Korea as a result of peace on the Korean peninsula in the long run, it could mean a receding US presence in Asia, ceding more space to China," Tayal said.