Hofstra University Professor of Law Julian Ku explains that even if the meeting between Trump and Kim Jong Un was primarily a photo opportunity, it still matters. Ku also discusses what to expect from North Korea and the US in the future and how their agreement may look similar to the Iran deal that was recently ditched by Trump. Following is a transcript of the video.
Julian Ku: The summit, I think as some people had predicted, was mostly a photo opportunity or a media extravaganza. They didn’t meet for very long, nor did their delegations meet for very long, and nor did they come up with any sort of important or new agreement that changed anything in the relationship that didn’t already exist before the meeting, so in substance, it was a pretty small meeting, but in terms of its symbolic impact on the United States’ public opinion and maybe elsewhere around the world, it’s huge.
These are countries that are still technically in an armed conflict, a lot of people died over the years fighting each other, and we don’t have any recognition of North Korea, nor do we have diplomatic relations. So to all of a sudden have the flags side by side, a flag that you know which represents a country the United States has often condemned essentially as a criminal regime, it may just be a photo opportunity, but the photo op in this case is most of the story by sort of giving North Korea the public exposure that it wants.
If both sides want to continue, and they feel like there’s enough good faith built up in that first meeting, then maybe something will be achieved. So that’s what we can expect in the future, that this original meeting provides enough political support on both sides to then move forward where both sides start making more substantive commitments or specific commitments, and really the commitments are mostly at this point for North Korea. There’s not much more the US can reasonably give.
Part of the US strategy appears to be to sell North Korea, so to speak, on a bright future if they give up their nuclear weapons, so a carrot rather than a stick, right? Currently, the stick is economic sanctions will make it very hard for you to grow your economy or trade, but the carrot is if you give up your nuclear weapons, a bright future, where you become an economically sort of wealthy, developed country like South Korea or China.
This is not anything like the Iran deal, which is very specific and long. It took a year at least to negotiate. But the hope is that it would lead to something like the Iran deal. Here’s a timetable, here’s specifically what you need to do to Get rid of your nukes, and then you have to allow the inspections to come in, and so a lot of those technical details would be very similar, but I think one of the biggest differences that the US will now seek, which they criticised the Iran deal, was that in the Iran deal, after 10 years it expired, and then Iran is free to go back to whatever it had been doing, whereas I think the US probably has said that they want not just denuclearization, but irreversible denuclearization, which is clear language, saying this has got to be permanent.
It can’t expire after 10 years, and then you can have your nuclear weapon, and I think critics of President Trump’s handling of this can fairly ask, well, why are you back at the table, what’s new here? Now every administration thinks, well one, we’re different, we’ll do a better job than the prior administration, and two, the leadership of North Korea is different. So although a lot of things may be the same, it does seem like President Trump seems to take personalities very seriously and thinks that would be an important part of this, and he thinks that this time is different because the leader of North Korea is different. He’s younger, the country’s in a different situation, and so maybe they really are in a position that they’d want to move forward for serious denuclearization in a way that they weren’t going to do so before. The current leader, Kim Jong Un, he did go to school in Europe, he’s a little bit more wordly than his predecessors. He’s also younger and can imagine a longer future ahead of him, so maybe this is based on the assessments of the North Korean leader being different.
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