It’s way too soon to draw conclusions from the Trump-Kim summit

President Trump met with Kim Jong Un, the hereditary dictator of North Korea, on Tuesday, and even if it was little more than a symbolic occasion marking out nothing more than the path ahead, the event made history. The world’s media flocked to Singapore to cover the first face-to-face meeting between the leaders of the two nations, after more than a year of rhetorical hostilities had brought them both seemingly to the brink of war. The summit had been prompted by Kim, canceled by Trump, and then eventually restored, as both sides sized each other up.

Expectations for the summit were high, and interest was even higher. Many are eagerly seeking answers to big questions: What does the summit mean? What’s the takeaway? How should we react? But these questions are based on a mistaken assumption that the meeting somehow represents the end of a process. In reality, if the meeting signaled anything at all, it is the beginning of a long path forward, and right now, it’s nearly impossible to gather any meaningful conclusions.

The run-up to the meeting should have informed observers about rational expectations. In most summits, heads of state do not meet until their teams have debated and bargained concrete proposals, with the leaders formalizing agreements that have already been all but made. The U.S.-Soviet Union summits on nuclear arms provide a good example of that process, although even those provided a surprise or two. The late 1986 summit between Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev in Reykjavik collapsed over the Strategic Defense Initiative, but enough was accomplished for Reagan to get the terms he wanted a few months later in the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

But the Trump-Kim meeting was not a summit in the classic sense. Instead of coming at the end of a long process, it came at the beginning of a sudden thaw as a means of testing whether there would be a process at all. No deal was cut, which was not surprising since no options for a deal had been seriously proposed or even spitballed. Instead, the two leaders signed an agreement that is only notable for its lack of concessions by either side.

The four points in the document only include one specific commitment to action: The Kim regime agreed to recover and return the remains of American POWs and MIAs from the Korean War. Otherwise, the document only commits both sides …read more

Source:: World – The Week

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