By Charlotte Lee
US President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met at the Capella Hotel in Sentosa, Singapore to hold a historic first meeting between the two countries. After the handshake, Trump and Kim held a one-on-one meeting to discuss North Korea’s nuclear weapons and the official end of the Korean War.
Following the meeting, both leaders signed a document that pledged towards complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. According to President Trump, the document that Kim agreed to sign was “pretty comprehensive” and that denuclearization would be done “very quickly”. However, experts believe that it will be a decades long process.
The term “denuclearization” is broad and vague. The extent to which it denotes complete abandonment of nuclear technology is unclear.
Because of a rocky history between the United States and North Korea, building bridges and disarmament will not be an easy task. In 1994, both countries agreed upon a deal that guaranteed denuclearization in exchange for US assistance. Additionally, the US promised not to use nuclear weapons against North Korea. However, after the US President George Bush came into office, North Korea was listed as a country under the “Axis of Evil”, which described countries that sponsored terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. The agreement between the two countries was shattered in 2002.
John Bolton, a national security advisor under the Trump Administration requested the North Korea abandon its nuclear program under the “Libya model”. This refers to the Libya’s admission of state-sponsored terrorism, abandonment of its nuclear program, and agreement to allow foreign inspections regarding biological weapons in 2002.
Under the Kim regime, nuclear weapons were seen as a protection against foreign invasions, and is an essential component of the North Korean identity. Without it, North Korea has no leverage internationally.
Andrei Lankov, a historian at Kookmin University in Seoul who once studied in Pyongyang said, “If they surrender nuclear weapons, they will sign their own death warrant.”
However, Mr. Kim expressed that him and President Trump have agreed to “leave the past behind” and that “the world will see a major change.”