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Summit critics put at risk all that has been gained so far

By Chen Weihua | China Daily | Updated: 2018-06-15 07:10
US President Donald Trump walks with the DPRK's top leader Kim Jong-un at the Capella hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore on Tuesday. [Photo/Agencies]

I went to Singapore to cover the historic summit between US President Donald Trump and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea leader Kim Jong-un with hopes it would go well but also concern that Trump might walk out on impulse.
After all, he had just withdrawn the United States' endorsement of the G7 joint statement on way to Singapore.

Not only the worst did not happen, it was such a successful summit that anyone who genuinely cares about the peace, stability and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula should warmly applaud it.

Trump and Kim deserve much credit no matter how much you may disagree with them on other issues. The jubilant celebration by the Korean community in Singapore right after the summit is testimony to this.

The Republic of Korea's President Moon Jae-in praised the summit on Thursday for allowing the entire world to escape the threat of a nuclear war.

Singaporean leaders and media also spoke highly of the historic moment.

But back in the US, it has become a bickering partisan issue ahead of the midterm election. Critics have said Trump has given legitimacy to Kim, for the lack of details in the joint statement and in particular a road map to denuclearization, for making concessions or making concessions too early, such as the halt of joint US-ROK military drills, for not vocally raising the issue of human rights in the DPRK, for serving China's interests, or for making China the biggest winner, as claimed by Ryan Hass, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a former Barack Obama administration official on China.

Few seem to be interested in discussing constructively how to sustain the positive momentum of the summit and make it a lasting success in achieving peace and denuclearization on the peninsula.

Why should anyone expect that issues between the US and the DPRK, which have festered for almost 70 years, to be resolved in one meeting? The lack of details in the joint statement was to be expected given each of the four areas is itself an immensely complicated undertaking.

China and the US did not resolve all the key issues when they established diplomatic ties in 1979, seven years after President Richard Nixon's icebreaking trip to China and handshake with Chairman Mao Zedong. The two countries still have many outstanding issues.

For the US and the DPRK, it is the beginning and a good beginning of a long and arduous journey.

The whole world emerged as the winner from the reconciliation on Tuesday. China is of course a big winner, having called for direct talks between the US and the DPRK for years and supported United Nations resolutions on peace and denuclearization of the peninsula. China's stance has been more consistent than any of the other parties involved.

But it is the people of the two Koreas, who are the biggest winners. They would be the victims if, the 1953 armistice no longer held and there was a renewal of the catastrophic hostilities on the peninsula. That is probably why some folks in the Korean community gathering in Singapore on Tuesday night burst into tears, they were tears of joy and hope.

It is true that no one can say with absolute confidence that Trump and Kim, given their characters, will be able to continue their cordial relations as displayed on Tuesday, but we should all have our fingers crossed they can.

Instead of whining, and making it a partisan issue in the midterm election and into the 2020 US presidential campaign, those in Washington should help advance peace and denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

The author is deputy editor of China Daily USA.

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