After a lot of time and plenty of (electronic) ink, Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un met face-to-face, and then signed a document. So far, so good, and it would seem to be a great improvement over the nuclear saber-rattling of not so long ago.
But what, exactly, did they sign?
Well, that’s hard to tell at this time—6:30am on the East Coast, or 6:30pm Singapore time. They agreed to work together towards denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula, without apparently defining what that means. Trump said that the US “will be stopping the war games,” which would seem to be a major concession on the face of it, though without any more details, it’s hard to tell. As the Washington Post noted: “The United States has conducted such exercises for decades as a symbol of unity with Seoul and previously rejected North Korean complaints as illegitimate. Ending the games would be a significant political benefit for Kim, but Trump insisted he had not given up leverage.”
What is surprising is how quickly it was over, considering the stakes: The two leaders of nuclear-armed countries met in private for 38 minutes accompanied only by translators, had a working lunch, and a photo op. Other sessions were also measured in tens of minutes.
Perhaps The Guardian summed up things best: “The vague nature of the agreement and the lack of other specific details was greeted with disappointment by analysts. Robert Kelly, professor of political science at Pusan National University, says the text is ‘even thinner than most sceptics anticipated.’ ”
And apparently, each country’s leader is shortly to leave Singapore and go home. Despite all this, Trump is calling it a win, saying that the talks went “better than anybody could imagine.”
The whole thing sounds remarkably like a version of what Vermont Senator George Aiken reputedly offered in 1966 as the solution to the Vietnam War: “We should declare victory, and go home.”