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Mr. Trump, where's the beef?

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un leads U.S. President Donald Trump after signing their joint declaration at their June 12 summit in Singapore, Tuesday. Yonhap

This is the first in a series of commentaries assessing the post-June 12 summit landscape. ― ED.

By Oh Young-jin

For U.S. President Donald Trump, the June 12 summit in Singapore was supposed to be all about the denuclearization of North Korea.

By that standard, Trump almost flunked but got by with an unbearable D. There is a chance his D can be upgraded to a passable C or proud B.

Prior to the meeting with Kim Jong-un, a dictator less than half his age, Trump pledged to get the North to commit itself to the complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantling (CVID) of the North's nuclear program that has come to the stage of testing an H-bomb with an intercontinental delivery capability. On top of that, a timetable for dismantling would come.

In the post-summit joint statement, Trump's priority issue got noted only as the third out of four bullet-point agreements.

"…the North commits to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula," it says.

So Trump has lost "verifiable and irreversible" or VI out of the CVID.

Complete in the acronym is important because it comes first and, if it is complete, it doesn't need "V" and "I," one may say. In this case, C needs V and I to be complete because the North is prone to cheating or so we think.

The North's denuclearization compliance needs to be verified by inspectors with unlimited access to suspected nuclear activities in the North to the state that it can't be restored.

Out of the perfect score of 10, C accounts for seven; V for two and I for one. So Trump got seven or a D.

Then, there is a qualifier in the agreed point: "Reaffirming the April 27, 2018, Panmunjeom Declaration …"

U.S. President Trump during the post-summit press conference on June 12 / Yonhap

That declaration was the result of the summit between President Moon Jae-in and the North's Kim. The lengthier inter-Korean declaration refers to the denuclearization issue at point 4 in clause 3. It composes of three parts. The first is about confirming the two Koreas' goal of a nuclear-free peninsula through complete denuclearization.

The second is about the South's recognition of the North's meaningful efforts ― the North imposed a self-moratorium on its missile and nuclear testing, shut down its nuclear site and promised Trump during the summit to close the missile engine testing grounds. The North was in the process of finessing intercontinental missiles that can reach the U.S. in its entirety.

The third is the two Koreas' agreement to seek the international community's help in that regard.

In other words, Trump's complete denuclearization could be only important in the sense that the North recommits itself to it but is seen as a realization of points two and three.

Was this a brilliant victory for the North Korean leader, when combined with other peripheral issues that took place in Singapore?

Brilliant? Yes. Kim left Trump alone for a press conference on a stage with a background patterned with the national flags of the two countries.

Trump tried to toot his own horn without the only one who could dispute him about the results, but the U.S. president almost self-destructed as he revealed he had promised Kim he would stop the South Korea-U.S. joint military drills, something the North has feared and long demanded be stopped, and so has been served as a key bargaining chip.

Considering Seoul has kept quiet, chances are President Moon coordinated with Trump in advance.

But do the summits in Panmunjeom and Singapore mean a victory for Kim?

In the short term, it appears so.

But over the long haul, don't bet on it.

Kim, a king of a pariah state, is comparable to a bettor, if the wealth U.S. together with the rest of the world is a Las Vegas casino. Given time, no bettor can beat the house. Trump has been saying the North's denuclearization is a process that may take long. That means he is opting for a long game rather than quick fix.

So it has just started so it is too early to call anyone's victory.

In other words, Trump's end appears lean on beef for now but, if we follow through his long game, we may find ourselves with cattle at the end.


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