Assessments of Summit Remain Too Equivocal
In yesterday’s Commentary I suggested that the immediate media responses to the Summit missed two important points – Kim is no long in a closed shell and Trump has not been given adequate praise for bringing him out. The media has improved today but remains too equivocal about the prospects because very little agreed substance has emerged so far. We are left, therefore, with judgements about whether Kim and Trump will do what they say they will –and to what extent. The most readable assessment has been made by Cameron Stewart, who is posted in the US by The Australian and is well-equipped to assess Trump and other US leaders: nobody is equipped to assess Kim, of course. I am using Stewart’s article to draw attention to the main points of concern below (see Stewart on Summit).
- De-Nuclearisation under the agreement as is consists simply of a promise, with no details and time scale and no indication of existing nuclear (and other) weapons held by Kim or of possible outside inspectors. This goes no further than the previous “agreement” by Kim’s father and Grandfather with previous US Presidents. Trump says, however, it will begin “very, very quickly”. What if it doesn’t? Presumably Trump would call the whole thing off. He has indicated thus and, while his stature would suffer, he would be unlikely to hold back. He has also indicated publicly that he may have been wrong to trust Kim – “You never know, Right? You never know”.
But if that happened, Kim would be left with none of the favourable promises which Trump has made, such as reduction/removal of sanctions. So it is in his interests to make a start, the more so as he has boasted on NK TV of the potential benefits. The possibility exists here that Kim will argue that he is entitled to have as many Nukes as other “small” countries (such as Israel) and Trump could agree to a debate on how many, etc. So, we could end not with denuclearisation but with a reduction and a proper inspection system. That would be an obvious improvement.
- Stoppage of war games between the US and South Korea, which has alarmed some in US congress. Trump has agreed to suspend these but would presumably re-start them if Kim makes no start on denuclearisation. In fact, it appears that Trump has stated that the US will continue training US troops with SK forces. That also means that there will be no removal of US forces from SK at present or in the immediate future.
- Removal of sanctions is pictured as for the future but Kim was encouraged to make progress to get rid of them by the specially designed film shown him by Trump near the end of the 4.5 hours meeting and displaying all the “goodies” from becoming a more capitalist economy. While it is possible that China will reduce the sanctions it imposes, the Trump ones may have as much significance.
- Critics of Trump say the form of government, and the treatment of NK’s citizens, should make mean that NK should not be the subject of negotiations by the US. But there are many members of the UN with dictatorial governments and poor treatment of citizens, albeit not as bad as NK. Venezuela sounds almost as bad.
- There are some immediate benefits to Trump and others, such as the return of POWs still held after the Korean war. And, as mentioned yesterday, if the agreement does proceed to unfold, it could provide a model for a similar agreement with Iran et al.
As Stewart says, “although sceptics may have history on their side, history can change — and there is more cause for optimism this time than in the past. The Trump-Kim summit, the first between a sitting US president and a North Korean leader, was the most public and dramatic thaw in relations with the US in North Korea’s history”. Malcolm Turnbull has also said that Trump deserved credit for giving peace on the Korean peninsula a “red hot go”.
More on Western Civilisation
The Charman of Ramsay Centre, John Howard, has been on 2GB Sydney supporting that body’s objectives and the NSW Premier has also taken to air with Minister Stokes with the latter pointing out “If it’s OK to have fairly commercial arrangements when it comes to the scientific environment, why’s it not OK to have a (relationship with a) centre in humanities?”(see Howard on West).
More significantly, today’s Australian carries a damaging article by a resident scholar, Michael Rubin, at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington DC, which I attended in 1987 (see Rubin on West). He suggests that VC Schmidt’s attempt to lionize the Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies is mistaken and the CAIS has made the ANU an “academic laughing stock”. In effect, its leader (and some of its visiting speakers) have dismissed concerns about repression of women in Arab countries and have promulgated ant-western and anti-Semetic policies. While denying any support for Trump, Rubin says “The ANU is sick. The output from its Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies is a symptom. The Ramsay centre could be just the cure the ANU needs”.
Daughter Lisa Performs at Recital Hall, Tuesday June 19
I can truthfully recommend this performance by daughter Lisa with Sonya Lifschitz on Tuesday June 19 at 6.30. The program is attached and its highlight is “the infamous Bach Goldberg Variations afresh, with it’s intricate ingenuity in luminous clarity as this duo team builds a kaleidoscopic tapestry of color, rhythm and touch”.