Summit cancelled but Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un may still spring a surprise
For countries like India, already hit by rising oil prices after the US walked out of the Iran N-deal, tension in the Korean Peninsula will makes matters worse.
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Is the Donald Trump-Kim Jong-un bromance over? Is this the end of the road for the world’s two most unpredictable leaders? Will this escalate tension in the Korean Peninsula and lead to a US military strike on North Korea? What would be China’s reaction? What would China, Russia and Japan do?
The White House has been hinting at China’s role in the hardening of Pyongyang’s position. More fissures in the region will open up and lead to further instability in Asia. The worst-affected would be South Korea and its President Moon Jae-in. Though nothing of this sort has happened yet, if the situation is not salvaged quickly the possibility of war cannot be ruled out. But that will not happen immediately. For developing countries like India, already hit by rising oil prices following the US walking out of the Iran nuclear deal, tension in the Korean Peninsula will makes matters worse.
It's not over yet?
Of course, the situation could well be salvaged. This could also be just pressure and posturing on both sides and the talks may eventually happen at a later date, when both sides have a better understanding of each other's position. North Korea’s reaction to Trump has been sober. That is an indication that Kim is playing hardball and would not like to let go of this opportunity to be a major player in the world stage.
North Korea had already begun the process of dismantling its nuclear test site ahead of the summit. It had said it would dismantle the Punggye-ri facility completely. That process would now be halted unless there is some clarity on the talks.
The scrapping of the June 12 meeting in Singapore was not unexpected, considering the angry rhetoric flowing from both sides last week. The summit was called off by Trump, though he left the door open for the future, asking Kim to call or write to him if the latter changed his mind.
Life goes on
Many hard-nosed diplomats are not surprised, considering such meetings take months and months of preparations. But with Trump, who had turned the rules of international diplomacy on its head, the swiftness with which the meeting was arranged, without adequate preparations, was just the way the new administration works.
Such meetings take months of backroom discussions, claim seasoned diplomats. But with the new business approach, Trump rushed through the arrangements thinking he had a good business deal to cut with North Korea. He also had an eye on winning the Nobel Peace Prize, for which his supporters were drumming up support even before the two leaders met. Many are sniggering at Trump’s amateur antics at peace-making.
So what happens now? The hopes of peace in the Korean Peninsula, which for a few weeks following Kim Jong-un’s visit to the South seemed bright, has now receded. For the divided families in Korea, this would be a terrible let-down. Their hopes had risen following the meeting between Kim and Moon Jae-in. He was surprised at the turn of events. Moon is the man who went out of his way to arrange the summit. The political fallout for him would be a heavy blow. He had come to power with the promise of breaking the deadlock with the North. He naturally urged Kim and Trump not to abandon their ambitious plans and said they should talk directly to each other.
"Denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula and the establishment of permanent peace are historic tasks that can neither be abandoned nor delayed," Moon was quoted as saying by the South Korean press.
Much of the blame for the no-show is with the US. It all began with America’s new hardliner national security adviser John Bolton, suggesting that North Korea should follow the "Libyan model" of nuclear disarmament. If Bolton had any sense, he would have known that North Korea always believed that Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi had made a major mistake by believing the West. For Pyongyang, keeping its nuclear programme going was the one insurance against regime change and American invasion of their country.
The minute Libya was mentioned, North Korea was unnerved. Pyongyang dubbed the remarks as "sinister". Bolton’s remarks were repeated by vice-president Mike Pence. This time the response from Pyongyang was hard-hitting. Choe Son Hui, vice-foreign minister, said that North Korea could "make the US taste an appalling tragedy it has neither experienced nor even imagined". Another North Korean official called Pence both "ignorant and stupid".
Luckily better sense may yet prevail. For Trump beset with troubles at home, a peace deal with North Korea would be just what the doctor prescribed. It would be a legacy moment for Trump if he can still pull off a deal with Kim. Perhaps both sides are already working behind the scenes to get things moving.
One can only wait and watch the situation unfold.