The on-again, off-again summit that Trump may or may not hold with Kim Jung Un of North Korea is actually kind of meaningless when you consider that the two countries most affected by the still unresolved conflict that began in the 1950s are already holding the summit without the U.S. president’s involvement.
President Moon Jae-in of South Korea met with his northern neighbor’s leader Kim Jong Un in Panmunjom, the truce village in the demilitarized zone on the two countries’ border, today in a surprise meeting to “frankly discuss” how to revive the summit with the erratic U.S. president, according to The Washington Post.
Trump arbitrarily called off the summit which was to have taken place in Singapore on June 12th earlier this week despite having already minted the commemorative coin to mark the occasion.
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While calling off the summit, Trump failed to give advance notice of the decision to our formerly close allies in South Korea, leaving President Moon blindsided by the move.
The fact that the North now has an arsenal of nuclear weapons while South Korea still relies on the United States for providing a nuclear deterrent is the only factor that prevents the two ethnically identical, but developmentally distinct countries from cutting out the middleman and negotiating their own peace deal without having to rely on the South’s increasingly unreliable ally now under the shambolic leadership of President Trump.
With President Moon committed to a peace process with its Northern neighbor with or without the United States, Trump runs the risk of being outmaneuvered by Kim Jong Un who can easily play the South Koreans against the U.S. if the two allies don’t present a united front during negotiations.
With the Trump administration at odds with the South Koreans over trade policy and tariffs while simultaneously trying to work together on denuclearizing the Korean peninsula, it would be a difficult balancing act for an intelligent and competent leader to successfully pull off.
Unfortunately, however, the United States is currently stuck with Trump who has all the grace and gravitas of a circus clown who couldn’t walk a tightrope strung an inch off the ground.
“Moon Jae-in is acting decisively to keep his people safe from war,” said Adam Mount, a nuclear expert at the Federation of American Scientists. “The U.S. summit should have this objective, but Moon will fall back on the Panmunjom process if necessary,” The Washington Post reported.
The specific details of the meeting between the two Korean leaders have yet to be revealed, however, reports do indicate that that the two leaders ended their surprise meeting with an embrace.
It’s now up to Trump to salvage a U.S. peace-making role in a region increasingly dominated by China as America abdicates its traditional responsibilities as the dominant force in East Asian foreign affairs. As with everything that President Trump does, expect a bumpy and frightening ride along the way.
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