Trump is proving yet again to be an unpredictable figure with eclectic policies that rely as much on sizzle as they do on well-done steak. Yet he can hardly be faulted for promising to draw down the U.S. troop presence and accept the peaceful denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
SENTOSA ISLAND, SINGAPORE – The summit between the leaders of the United States and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea at Singapore’s Sentosa Island has come and gone. While it may not have been the comprehensive solution to all outstanding issues between the two countries, it surely has lived up to the hype befitting a historic occasion.
From the firm handshakes between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un to Dennis Rodman in a red #MAGA cap weeping on CNN, the event was filled with the sorts of reality-television antics we’ve come to expect from the U.S. leader.
Yet despite the trivia surrounding the event – the tense body language mixed with verbal flattery; the fake movie trailer from “Destiny Productions;” the promises of “very, very” rapid denuclearization; and the rest of Trump’s verbal potpourri – the event was momentous insofar as it seems, for now, to have signaled an easing of U.S. aggression toward the DPRK and a potential fresh start in Korean-U.S. relations.
Signaling Pyongyang’s enthusiasm over the coming possibilities, Kim said:
The old fetters and practices worked as obstacles on our way forward, but we’ve overcome all of them and come here today.”
War games will be a thing of the past; sanctions appear to potentially be on-track toward a phase-out, as Trump hinted with a post-summit joke about sanctions-busting activities by China; and the two sides appear committed to reaching amity to the point where the former real-estate mogul himself is already thinking of beach resorts and ski lodge hotels in the North.
Yet Trump’s detractors refused to give the president any benefit of the doubt, given their raw fury over his chaotic performance at the G-7 in Quebec, a wild affair that showcased not only Trump’s erratic and high-strung temperament but also that of his underlings, whose quivering rage (followed by a heart attack, no less) reached nearly cartoonish degrees after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau mildly rebuked the U.S. for launching a trade war on its traditional allies.
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The “resistance” attitude in the U.S. toward the breakthrough summit with Kim can best be summed up by a Bernie Sanders tweet, where the independent social-Democrat noted:
I find it very strange that President Trump has such a hard time getting along with the leaders of the world’s major democracies but feels very comfortable with despots and authoritarian leaders like Putin, Xi Jinping, Duterte and Mohammad Bin Salman.”
The strongmen versus the civilized
While the initial summit with Kim was a tad short on concrete outcomes, Democrats aligned with the Obama and Clinton camps struggled hard to express principled disagreements with the White House over a rapprochement with Pyongyang – instead opting to fall back on a laundry-list cliché of complaints about Trump’s disdain for the “rules-based world order,” the lack of presidential decorum, and the commander-in-chief’s dubious mental-health state.
In one particularly bizarre and petty exchange hosted by Don Lemon, CNN national security analyst Samantha Vinograd tore into the White House’s release of details regarding the sumptuous luncheon meal in Singapore because it would somehow dignify Kim as a leader. Vinograd complained:
I want to bring it back to the menu for a second, not just because I’m hungry, but because typically the White House releases these kinds of details after, for example, the French president comes to the White House, or another head of state comes for a state visit. So by releasing the details of the menu this is again legitimizing Kim Jong-un and putting him on equal footing with other world leaders, which is what he wants.”
The comment was affirmed by talking-head pundit Jonathan Wachtel, who noted that the menu is “particularly interesting” because “the poor North Korean people” are starving and “can’t even imagine the types of foods” the heads of state enjoyed. Presumably, in Wachtel’s world, most Americans – like the swelling ranks of California’s homeless population – are well-accustomed to dining on beef short rib confit, Korean stuffed cucumber, and Tarte Tropézienne, real staples of a civilized Western diet.
The Hill columnist Brent Budowsky, a Democrat career pundit, heaped on hyperbole and hypocrisy in equal measure when tearing into the summit:
Kim Jong Un, one of the worst human rights abusers in modern world history, won a tremendous domestic and international public relations victory that North Korean dictators have long hungered for, appearing as a charming world leader and statesman equal to the president of the United States on the world stage.”
Beltway pundits such as Budowsky have studiously abstained, however, from criticizing human-rights violations by U.S. allies in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Israel, Colombia, Honduras, or any number of junior partners who have never so much as lifted a finger to assert their independence from U.S. imperialism and hegemonic control — all the while firmly clutching their billy-clubs and the triggers of their rifles as they commit human-rights abuses with impunity and scarcely any criticism from the media.
Regional observers note modest progress, hazy details
Russia’s Foreign Ministry warmly greeted the meeting and promised to make “political, intellectual, practical and creative contributions to the settlement of problems” in Korea, according to TASS New Agency.
Likewise, South Korean President Moon Jae-In effusively greeted the joint declaration signed at the meeting as the potential beginning to a comprehensive end of hostilities dating back to the Korean War – a sentiment repeated in Chinese state newspaper Global Times, which noted that such an outcome could mean the “[Korean] peninsula will completely walk out of the shadow of the Cold War.”
Ominously, Global Times added:
After dealing with North Korea for a few rounds, Trump’s team has developed a more realistic mindset on the issue. But his domestic foes probably would rather mess everything up, prioritizing embarrassing Trump above protecting the long-term interests of the U.S.”
Trump is proving yet again to be an unpredictable figure with eclectic policies that rely as much on sizzle as they do on well-done steak. Yet he can hardly be faulted for promising to draw down the U.S. troop presence and accept the peaceful denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula – not only the North, but foreign troops allies like the nuclear-equipped U.S. force.
For liberal TV anchors and columnists, Trump is apparently incapable of doing any good unless he’s applying a language of pressure, sanctions and veiled threats using acceptable language.
Yet one thing is certain: Pyongyang’s leadership enjoyed the warm embrace of the White House in a scene that recently seemed like it could have come from a “fantasy” or “science fiction film,” as Kim put it.
Top Photo | U.S. President Donald Trump, right, reaches to shakes hands with North Korea leader Kim Jong Un at the Capella resort on Sentosa Island, June 12, 2018 in Singapore. Evan Vucci | AP
Elliott Gabriel is a former staff writer for teleSUR English and a MintPress News contributor based in Quito, Ecuador. He has taken extensive part in advocacy and organizing in the pro-labor, migrant justice and police accountability movements of Southern California and the state’s Central Coast.