Historic handshake

AuthorPublished: 13th Jun 2018  12:00 amUpdated: 12th Jun 2018  8:43 pm

It’s a moment of history, a moment replete with immense opportunities and attendant risks as well. The landmark meeting between the United States President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un at a resort in Singapore, the first by the leaders of the two countries locked in decades of enmity, may well herald a new chapter in the bilateral relationship, an inconceivable courtship even a few months ago. Apart from the bonhomie, warm handshakes and atmospherics, the significance of the one-on-one engagement is that it could lead to complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, as promised by the North Korean dictator. If and when that happens, an enduring peace is possible in the Korean peninsula. The success of the summit comes as a delicious irony in the international diplomacy as the two leaders were threatening each other with nuclear Armageddon just a few months ago. Technically, the two countries, the combatants of the 1950-53 Korean war, are still in a state of war as the conflict, in which millions of people died, was concluded only with a truce nearly 65 years ago. The historic agreement signed by the two leaders spoke about building a lasting and stable peace in the Korean peninsula, complete denuclearisation of the region and establishing a new bilateral relationship in accordance with the desire of the peoples of the two countries for peace and prosperity. On its part, the US committed to provide security guarantees to its old enemy, ending seven decades of hostilities.

The ice-breaking summit is just the beginning of an arduous process ahead that requires deft handling in view of the several failed negotiations in the past. Though the agreement made no mention of the fate of international sanctions that have crippled North Korea’s economy for pursuing its nuclear weapons programme and the schedule for the final signing of the peace treaty, an important first step has finally been taken in an atmosphere of mutual trust, raising hopes of a lasting peace. If the joint statement leads to a lasting detente, it could fundamentally change the security landscape of Northeast Asia. It also marks a crucial moment in the global push to resolve the standoff with North Korea over its nuclear weapons and missile programmes. The images emerging from the historic Singapore summit would certainly warm the hearts of Koreans because every single Korean family was tormented by the war and has suffered the loss or upheaval due to decades of hostilities. The decision to suspend the war games with South Korea, announced by Trump soon after the summit, marks a significant concession to North Korea and a gamble that Kim will follow through on pledges to abandon his nuclear weapons programme.