It happened. It actually happened. After three months of back and forth, the history-making summit between American President Donald Trump and North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un has finally taken place in Singapore. It is the first meeting ever of an American president with a North Korean leader. Say what you want about Donald Trump, but this is a significant moment in history.
— CNBC Now (@CNBCnow) June 12, 2018
And everything seemed to go smoothly. The two were both smiling, seemingly talking pleasantly to one another (although it’s unclear how much English Kim knows) and they even held each other’s arms (in a show of either friendship or dominance, depending on who you talk to). Yes, it looks like Donald Trump did it, folks.
But what exactly did he do?
Had some deep chats over ice cream
After the handshake heard ’round the world, the two leaders headed into an hour-long meet-and-greet with only their translators in the room. Later, they had a “working lunch” where the two dined on foods from both their countries; “oiseon” and “daegu jorim” from Korea and beef short ribs and Haagen-Dazs ice cream from the United States.
Meeting with Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump and officials continuing. They’re about to have this menu for lunch… will they reach the HaagenDazs without a melt-down, or will things go sour by the crispy pork? #CBC pic.twitter.com/49TDOaT3u5
— Saša Petricic (@sasapetricic) June 12, 2018
Five hours of private talks followed at which media were not permitted. The culmination of those discussions was revealed afterwards in a showy press moment where the two leaders came out to sign a joint statement agreeing to some very vague terms about denuclearization.
Signed an agreement so vague it might not matter
The joint statement acknowledges agreement on four points: that they will establish “new US-DPRK relations,” put in efforts to “build a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula,” reaffirm the Panmunjom Declaration (the agreement to denuclearize signed by NK and SK in April) and immediately put efforts into the recovery of “POW/MIA remains.” You can read the full text here.
— BBC Breaking News (@BBCBreaking) June 12, 2018
While the document may seem to put everybody on the same page, it is extremely vague and the commitments in it were ones that everyone had already committed to. There was also a glaring omission: there were no assurances or mechanisms put in place for verifying and inspecting North Korean nuclear sites to confirm denuclearization. One of Trump’s most significant issues with the Iran Deal was that the certification measures to keep a check on their nuclear program had an expiry. Not putting in a provision about inspections is dangerously hypocritical (but that’s nothing new) and could pose a huge problem down the road when the Western World wants to do a check on if North Korea is keeping its promises.
Made compromises without getting anything in return
Since so little was actually done, was this thing just one big photo-op? It’s possible, but in a lengthy solo press conference after the meeting, Donald Trump revealed more about his conversation with Kim to the press and we’re starting to think the “master deal-maker” might not actually be that great at making deals.
Trump shared that after the agreement was signed, he also committed the United States to halting its “provocative war games” on the Korean Peninsula. He was referring to the joint military exercises the American and South Korean militaries perform in SK periodically. Those exercises were Kim’s reason for threatening to cancel this very summit back in May when he said they were an “undisguised challenge” and “deliberate military provocation.”
The commitment isn’t in the signed document, but it’s surprising (but also not-at-all-surprising) that Trump would make concessions without receiving anything from the North Koreans in return other than a vague promise to denuclearize without a timeline or inspection protocol in place.
Trump’s statement also seemed to catch South Korea and his own military by surprise. When asked, the Pentagon said they had received no communications about changing their operations in Korea and the South Korean Defense Ministry issued a statement saying they were working to figure out Trump’s intentions.
Forget the diplomacy, we’re here for the jokes
The meeting ran relatively smoothly, but you bet there were some awkward and downright weird moments peppered in there too. Like when Trump asked photographers if they were getting good pictures so the leaders look “nice and handsome and thin and perfect.” That’s a strange statement in itself, but Kim’s look of bewilderment at the comment is like something out of a TV mockumentary.
Curb Your Summit pic.twitter.com/YxJnVI7W55
— Jake Johnstone (@hijakejohnstone) June 12, 2018
At some point Trump also took an opportunity to show off his presidential limousine, AKA “The Beast” (yes, seriously). It’s unclear why he thought this was something that needed to happen.
— NBC News (@NBCNews) June 12, 2018
Trump also screened a video for the press that he had made for the occasion and apparently also showed it to Kim himself “on a cassette” (he later said he had it on an iPad). The video may be about breaking news, but it looks like something out of a 1980s history class. You won’t be disappointed.
Here’s a closer look at that bizarre video https://t.co/AvewolNYES
— Lisa Tozzi (@lisatozzi) June 12, 2018
Finally, Trump made a very strange comment about some real estate advice he gave Kim. POTUS apparently suggested that the North Korean leader develop the nation’s “great beaches” to house “the best hotels in the world.” Just one problem: those beaches are often used for military drills.
“You see that whenever they’re exploding cannons into the ocean. I said, ‘Boy, look at that view. Wouldn’t that make a great condo?” he said.
Trump says you could have the “best hotels in the world” on the beaches that North Korea uses for its artillery drills pic.twitter.com/4qo2UD17HG
— Gearoid Reidy (@GearoidReidy) June 12, 2018
So it looks like we’re back to the waiting game on US-NK details. Donald Trump himself has even admitted that he might be wrong about Kim’s intentions and commitments. Although, he added that he’ll make an excuse if things don’t turn out.
Ladies and gentleman, the leader of the free world!
Trump says he trusts Kim Jong Un. And if he’s wrong? “I may be wrong, I mean I may stand before you in six months and say, ‘Hey I was wrong,'” said Trump, before adding, “I don’t know that I’ll ever admit that, but I’ll find some kind of an excuse.” https://t.co/2sZ4fV3Z4H pic.twitter.com/lOVaQ0J7Xe
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) June 12, 2018