Benefit of Doubt


President Trump has to be given the benefit of doubt for the rapid rapproachement that is happening between North and South Korea. If the Summit held yesterday between President Moon of South Korea and Kim Jong Un of North Korea eventually leads to a peace treaty between the two Koreas, President Trump will claim credit for accomplishing what all the previous U.S. Presidents failed to achieve over the past 70 years.

Does the world believe that President Trump deserves credit for achieving what was almost an impossibility? Of course, any credit can only be given if North Korea agrees to destroy its nuclear weapons and loses the ability to threaten the world. I am sure that the U.S. would also demand that there is a verifiable, irreversible process put in place to achieve complete denuclearization. The U.S. would also demand that North Korea destroys its ballistic missile program, among other difficult and challenging demands.

The unfortunate situation in the Korean imbroglio has always been the involvement of the super powers. The Soviet Union, China, and the U.S. were all involved in the 1950 -53 conflict which ended in an armistice agreement rather than a peace treaty, which only means that the two Koreas have been technically in an unending war all these years. The super powers have always been engaged and always have hoped that they would be the beneficiaries in some way if there is eventual peace on the Korean peninsula.

Notwithstanding all the bad rhetoric between President Trump (via his infamous tweets) and North Korea, it is apparent that both sides are carefully evaluating the option of achieving peace. While that may not be good news for the arms manufacturers in the U.S. and the war hawks in President Trump’s cabinet who have been thirsting to launch attacks on North Korea, it is excellent news for the rest of the world and especially for Asia. North Korea’s eventual integration with South Korea could create potentially a large consumer market and attract global investments. The last Cold War era conflict would have officially ended, opening up opportunities for peace and prosperity for the Korean people.

In my opinion, President Moon of South Korea deserves full credit for giving the final push towards peace settlement via the great occasion of Winter Olympics, and constant persuasion of Kim Jong Un which seems to have worked out for both so well. He had the challenge of keeping both the U.S. and Japan at bay while working on his charm offensive. He did not want unnecessary and uncalled for escalation with an erratic President Trump and an almost helpless but whining Prime Minister Abe of Japan who is wary of anything to do with North Korea. President Moon persevered and it is clear that he achieved within 8 weeks what none of his predecessors achieved. He not only made Kim Jong Un cross over into the South for the meeting yesterday, he also stepped into the North in a show of friendship towards Kim.

Symbolism plays a big role in Asia, and a lot more in Korea. All the right moves were made yesterday, niceties were exchanged, pleasant speeches were made. What one does not know for sure is the inside of Kim Jong Un. He may be only 34 years old, but appears to be savvy and somewhat calculating. All these efforts may go to naught if he decides that the U.S. demands are not workable for him, or if the U.S. insults him publicly, or if the planned meeting between Kim and President Trump does not go all too well. Both Kim and Trump have big egos and are very pricky, and if Trump allows one of his leading hawks like John Bolton to say bad things in the meeting, then there goes a great opportunity for achieving peace in one of the last frontiers of war. I am worried that President Trump and his team may not listen to President Moon and may not prepare adequately for the summit in June. Kim seems to be well prepared. While he might agree for certain broad principles and a timetable, that might not satisfy the trigger happy bunch of Trump team.

Then what happens?

Stalemate and more sanctions. May be a limited war. North Korea will respond with more ballistic missile launches and more nuclear tests.

However, if the summit goes well and the peace treaty indeed happens, then the future is bright. And President Moon and Trump will be nominated along with Kim Jong Un for the Nobel Peace Prize!

So, here we are in a global conflict situation wherein the most impossible stuff are happening at a whirlwind pace. And, we can probably “hope” to see a Nobel Laureate in President Trump which people did not even dream about. This may be pure luck for President Trump. Tweets and threats would have earned him a Nobel Prize which gives big hope for potential Nobel Prize aspirants in future.

All said and done, let us give President Trump the benefit of doubt for what is happening in Korea, and offer our hearty congratulations to President Moon. Both deserve a round of applause from the international community. Also President Xi of China also deserves some credit for applying pressure on Kim Jong Un to come to the negotiating table.

So, hopefully we should be able to sleep in peace with one less nuclear threat in the world.

Cheers, and enjoy the weekend with no alcohol of course,

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

28th April 2018

 

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