Trump and Kim sign a “comprehensive” agreement of no real substance

“Instead, there are good wishes and flowery language."
June 12, 2018, 8:39am
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Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un signed a joint statement Tuesday that offered a vague commitment to work “toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.” And not much else.

While the declaration was hailed by both leaders as “an epochal event of great significance,” analysts have dismissed the document as lacking the kind of concrete commitments needed for a real change in the region.

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

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The document details four points, including a “commit[ment] to establish new relations in accordance with the desire of the peoples of the two countries for peace and prosperity.”

It's the third point, however, that will rouse the most focus.

“Reaffirming the April 27, 2018 Panmunjom Declaration, the DPRK commits to work towards the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”

READ: Dealmaker Trump cancels South Korea war games — and gets nothing in return

The Panmunjom Declaration was signed by Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae In following their April meeting in the demilitarized zone straddling the two countries.

Despite the seemingly positive commitments, and Trump describing it as “very comprehensive,” the declaration lacks any actual detail. The only substantive next step mentioned is that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will hold follow-up talks with “a relevant high-level DPRK official at the earliest possible date.”

Analysts were unimpressed.

“One need only look at the document to realize that there are no details, none of the fine detail we've seen in past U.S.-DPRK agreements,” John Hemmings, Asia Director at the Henry Jackson Society, a British foreign policy think tank, told VICE News. “Instead, there are good wishes and flowery language, and promises that Pompeo and ‘a relevant high-level DPRK official' will work out the little details.”

READ: Nuclear negotiations with a portly tyrant might not be the best time to crack a fat joke

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Hemmings added: “Even here, there's no timeline for how long this will take, and what is the next stage. It's as if neither side expected to get here and came unprepared.”

Robert Kelly, an expert on North Korea, called the declaration “depressing,” adding: “This is even thinner than most skeptics anticipated. I figured Trump would at least get some missiles or a site closure or something concrete.”

A number of analysts also pointed out the “glaring similarities” between today’s declaration and one signed 25 years ago in 1993 that declared the two sides would work together toward maintaining peace and prosperity.

Experts also noted that Trump’s meeting with Kim has legitimized the North Korean dictator without questioning his human rights violations or getting any substantive concessions from Pyongyang.

The signing of the declaration came after hours of highly choreographed meetings and talks between Trump and Kim, with the U.S. president declaring that the pair had “developed a very special bond” and that he would be inviting Kim to the White House.

When asked what he had learned about Kim during their meetings, Trump said: “I learned he’s a very talented man. I also learned that he loves his country very much.”

During the signing of the declaration, Trump was asked if he brought up the topic of Otto Warmbier, the U.S. student who died after being imprisoned in North Korea. Trump completely ignored the question. He did, however, manage to tweet a highlights reel of himself from the day.

Cover image: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un with U.S. President Donald Trump during their historic U.S.-DPRK summit at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa Island on June 12, 2018, in Singapore. (Kevin Lim/The Strait Times/Handout/Getty Images)