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Techly Explains

Techly Explains: What happened at Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un’s ‘historic’ summit?

It’s dominated headlines over the last 48 hours, but what actually happened when Donald met Kim?

If you’re anything like us, the chances are you want to know about big political meetings because, y’know, they’re very important.

But also, it’s very complicated and why use brain power figuring it all out when instead you could be watching Love Island?

Well, maybe part of the reason you should care is that the “leave it to the experts” mantra no longer applies – because while Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump are a lot of things, they are certainly not experts.

So it’s down to us, the people, to dissect what went on in the meeting and figure out what it was even about and why it was so damn historic.

Why did the meeting take place in Singapore?

The small country of Singapore is widely acknowledged as a mutual ground between states. Neither leader holds power in Singapore so they are on a level playing field.

What was the aim of the summit?

The key word here is denuclearisation. The aim was to have North Korea sign a declaration agreeing to stop developing nuclear weapons. From the US perspective, anything less than total denuclearisation at the summit was considered a loss.

However, the US then made the mistake of comparing Kim Jong-un to Muammar Gadaffi, the leader of Libya and, well, that didn’t go down too well and resulted in the summit being cancelled.

So, since that debacle, no one is really sure what the aim of the summit was, but we’re thinking of it as the first (of many) stepping stones on the way to North Korea’s denuclearisation.

What actually happened behind closed doors?

Let’s be honest: who really knows. According to both parties, the summit was a success with a signed agreement declaring the two nations would work on building “a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula”. North Korea agreed to work towards denuclearisation while the USA pledged to end joint military exercises in South Korea.

How long that denuclearisation will take, nobody can say for certain. But Kim Jong-un is keen to keep America on-side, as China, their main ally, has become increasingly disapproving of his erratic ways. The meeting between the two men normalises Kim Jong-un internationally at a time when he’s seen as a political outsider.

It’s worth noting that North Korea has previously promised denuclearisation – on a number of occasions, in fact – without actually following through.

So, was the summit a success?

Vipin Narang, a professor of political science at MIT and an expert on US-North Korea relations, spoke to Sean Illing for Vox about whether or not the result of the summit favours the US, North Korea, both or neither.

“They merely promised to ‘work toward’ the goal of denuclearization, which is about as vague and meaningless as it gets,” he said.

“And in a lot of ways, Kim ends up the winner, because he has extracted a freeze on US-South Korean military exercises as long as the dialogue continues, and as long as North Korea continues to freeze its development of nukes.

“There’s really nothing to enforce at this point. The text of the agreement is so vague that it’s not clear what could be enforced. Remember, North Korea hasn’t agreed to give up or suspend anything. They’ve literally committed to nothing, so what would we even verify?

“But it’s important to stipulate that North Korea is probably at a point in its technical development cycle where it can afford to suspend full-blown missile testing, in which case Kim emerges as the big winner. He gets to sit down as an equal to the US president, commit to nothing, and, for the short term, drive a wedge between the US and South Korea.

When asked by Illing who came out as the big winner, Narang had a pretty clear take on the summit.

“China looks like a big winner. Their ultimate goal is a nuclear North Korea that doesn’t provoke a war on the Korean Peninsula, so that there’s a buffer between South Korea, US forces, and China. So China and North Korea are unambiguous winners here.

“The US comes out mostly even, having gained a nice photo op. South Korea, depending on how it reacts, can still gain from this. Japan appears to be the immediate loser.”

Luckily, if this is considered a pretty historic moment (it was only last year we thought the pair would start World War III via Twitter), acknowledging that isn’t mutually exclusive to disliking both Trump and Kim Jong-un.

At the end of the day, we all just want to not be blown up by nuclear weapons.

About the author

Alice is a Londoner who quit her 9 – 5 job and bought a one way ticket to Sydney. Usually found pining after Leonardo DiCaprio, drinking red wine and keeping her Instagram “on point” via @alicesantics.

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