We have a signed piece of paper and several big pronouncements. That was to be expected, but what really happened and what now?
The world watched with a potent mixture of hope and deep anxiety as President Trump and the North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un met at their historic summit. There are so many reasons for skepticism, deep skepticism. And just because something is “historic” does not mean that it is a positive development. But I do believe that our allies in Asia (remember what allies are?), especially South Korea, have strong hopes in a process that they worked hard to begin. And perhaps, despite all the other swirling winds of global retreat, this will turn out to be a positive step towards peace. We can only hope.
Of course, the cruel and bloody human rights record of North Korea and its iron repression does not end. Of course, the damage that Trump has done to our closest allies in Europe and North America is not wiped clean. Of course, we have a President who seems more disposed to dictators than democracies. Of course agreeing on, implanting and enforcing a nuclear deal is a Herculean task. Of course, we have raised the stature of the North Korean despot on the world stage. All that serves as preface and postscript to what happened in Singapore.
And yet, nuclear war is of such a horrifying and existential threat that the fact that North Korea is talking instead of threatening, the fact that South Koreans who live in the most immediate danger are filled with hope, the fact that Trump’s bellicose foreign policy advisors have tempered their saber-rattling, all that is a reason for a sliver of realistic optimism.
But of course, And we have not seen much from this president as a leader who is prepared for the difficult and distinctly unglamorous slog of governance and diplomacy beyond the photo op.