Few can deny that negotiation is better than nuclear war, that friendly words are better than harsh ones, and that commitments to denuclearisation, whether holding water or not, cultivate a superior condition than relations frozen in a state of mistrust. When President Donald Trump became the first U.S. president to meet a North Korean head of state, he chose the superior path in favour of a more peaceful world.
Critics were swift in their accusations of the U.S. ‘legitimising’ the North Korean regime in holding the summit and making concessions in form of jeopardising South Korean security. Does this scrutiny hold some weight? Absolutely. North Korea certainly will view this as a win for their global standing, and the substance of the agreement signed on June 12th is yet to be manifested in policy alterations. President Trump perhaps overstepped the mark in his complementary remarks about the North Korean dictator, and his messy diplomacy leading up to the summit arguably could have been handled differently.
What the critics ought to realise however, rather than paying attention to minor words, is that this is a vital and potentially unique opportunity for peace. Whether we agree with Mr. Trump’s style of diplomacy and domestic politics or not, the fact remains true that he has made more progress with North Korea – labelled as the number one national security threat – than any other leader. In warming up to to Kim Jong Un, while ramping up the pressure on China, Trump has offered a fresh approach. In talking tough, while keeping the door open for negotiation, Trump has mirrored Reagan’s strategy during the Cold War.
This blend of new and old diplomacy yielded results in the form of returning hostages, a halt in North Korean nuclear testing for 7 months, and the decimation of the Punggye-ri nuclear test site, all before the U.S. had even talked concessions. These are milestones that should be welcomed as steps towards peace, as opposed to an opportunistic window to vent frustration at a President you may not want to succeed at all.
Challenges, in the form of South Korean security and the technicalities of denuclearisation, certainly do lay ahead. However, the very fact that peace is the word on our lips, as opposed to ‘fire and fury’, demonstrates that we need to see the bigger picture and focus on the positive implications this summit has for the world.