Friday, June 22, 2018

Examining the Singapore Summit Logically - Apolo Villalobos

by Apolo Villalobos

In Singapore, Donald Trump proved to the world that he is, indeed, a master of making deals.

President Trump realized long ago that our so-called “alliances” are nothing of the sort, in so far as they have been one-way “alliances” for over half a century. They have always been one-sided. Japan and South Korea have contributed nothing whenever America needed help elsewhere. As for the NATO countries, long ago they pledged that, upon a Russian invasion, they would defend Europe to the last American. As for their contribution in Afghanistan, it can be likened to their contributing a truck with the transmission shot. Worse, America has carried most of the financial burden of defending these “allies.”

In Singapore, Donald Trump has proven to the world -- if not to the obsessively hostile American media -- that he is, indeed, a master of making deals. Although the details have not come out, if we use a bit of logic we can easily unravel the puzzle.

Prior to actually meeting with Kim, Trump offered things through Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that Kim desperately craved. For one thing, a formal end to the Korean War. For another, full diplomatic recognition by America, South Korea, and Japan, thereby legitimizing the country’s identity and existence. Third, a cessation of (costly!) South Korean-American war games. Four, the gradual withdrawal of American troops from South Korea, thereby eliminating costly bases in the country. Five, a guarantee that the U.S. will refrain from attempting regime change. Six, an end to sanctions. Seven, economic aid (which would be vastly cheaper than a continued military presence and war games). This was irresistible to Kim.

In order to get all this, North Korea must denuclearize. This requires a shift in the North’s psychology, but considering that the raison d’être for nukes is the survival of the regime, North Korea will get that through Trump’s plan without any more costly nuke buildup.

On top of this, Kim was feted in Singapore and praised for agreeing to the summit, treated as an international VIP, instead of being seen as a leper. He could get used to this.

In the past, meetings with North Korean officials have always been accompanied by obnoxious insults and rudeness, which American officials put up with because they were desperate for results. When DPRK lower officials started the same nonsense by standing up American officials, Trump abruptly called off the summit. Fences were quickly mended and the summit was back on, but the message was clear: Trump wouldn’t put up with their usual routine (this was evident even prior to this, when Trump promised to completely obliterate North Korea if Guam was attacked). In this, he borrowed a page from Ronald Reagan: the latter had made it clear that, unlike his feckless predecessors, he would walk away from a summit rather than sign a damaging treaty (too many harmful treaties have been approved by foolish American politicians and bureaucrats who have embraced willful blindness so that they would not disappoint expectations of signing a treaty). And somewhat relevant to all this is the fact that, prior to meeting the American president, Kim fired three generals who may have objected to the summit (leaders to Communist countries, as a rule, are not afflicted by the blind fanaticism of their subjects). A coup d’etat is still possible.

To add frosting on the cake, Trump just imposed tariffs on China, which indicates that China had very little, if anything, to do with the summit. It may be remembered that Trump campaigned on the fact that China steals intellectual property and that the trading dynamics have been in China’s favor (just go to any Walmart or Target and see how many items are made in China). During the first year of his presidency, Trump halted the anti-China rhetoric. Why? Because, as with previous presidents, China had pretended to be the key to influencing North Korea, stringing them along for years, essentially playing one off against the other. Trump caught on and bypassed China and now he can do what he wanted to do all along in respect to China.

Genius. Sheer genius.

The Koreans look forward to reunification one day. They are as sentimental at the prospect as the Germans were during the Cold War. What Kim and the ruling elite in North Korea do not realize is that the regime is living on borrowed time. It will be destroyed, not through nukes or tanks or missiles, but with smuggled DVDs. That is what paradoxically will bring down the regime.

Apolo Villalobos


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