Trump hit for halting joint military drills with Seoul
U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un took a significant first step toward starting a peace process during their historic summit in Singapore, Tuesday. It is meaningful that they committed to establishing a new relationship between their countries and building a lasting peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.
Despite such an agreement, President Trump has invited criticism for giving away too much to Kim, while getting little in return. At stake is how to denuclearize the North. Before the summit, Trump and his negotiators called for "complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization" (CVID). But in the joint statement, Trump and Kim agreed only on the "complete" denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
It is disappointing to see "verifiable" and "irreversible" missing from the statement. No one can easily understand why Trump came to make such a concession. Of course, Kim and his officials must have strongly opposed the U.S. demand for CVID. But the CVID formula should not have been compromised under any circumstances.
Without holding fast to the formula, Trump has promised to provide security guarantees to North Korea. Kim only reaffirmed his "firm" and "unwavering" commitment to complete denuclearization of the peninsula. It was nothing new from the Panmunjeom Declaration issued by Kim and President Moon Jae-in during their inter-Korean summit at the truce village April 27. The declaration also used the same expression as far as denuclearization was concerned.
The absence of CVID is a step backward from previous nuclear accords, including the Sept. 19, 2005, agreement that called for the North to denuclearize verifiably and irreversibly. In this sense, the Singapore statement is long on symbolism, but short on concrete action. It raises worries that Washington and Pyongyang may face a long, difficult process of realizing full denuclearization.
What's more serious is Trump's announcement to suspend joint U.S.-South Korea military exercises. The suspension is apparently aimed at appeasing the North, which sees such drills as a grave threat to its security. Trump might argue it is necessary to halt the drills as part of his promise to provide security guarantees for the Kim regime. But he needs to realize his abrupt announcement caught South Korea off guard.
It is shocking to find that Trump used the term "war games" instead of "military exercises" and described them as "very provocative." He did not hesitate to say that Washington will save a tremendous amount of money. He seemed not to care about South Korea's national security or its alliance with the U.S.
Trump's move might undermine the traditional Seoul-Washington alliance. In follow-up talks with America, the North may ask for the withdrawal of U.S. troops or the removal of its strategic assets, including the nuclear umbrella, from the South.
The goal of the talks is to dismantle the North's nuclear weapons in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner. It is also to implement the peace process on the peninsula. It should not be to hurt the alliance. That's why Trump must work more closely with Moon to achieve this shared goal.