US President Donald Trump’s flip-flops and maverick demeanour are his trademarks which is what makes him so controversial among world leaders.
After calling off his much-heralded summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, citing Pyongyang’s “open hostility” eight days prior, the US president has announced that the summit would go on as scheduled on June 12 in Singapore.
This is after a series of parleys between intermediaries which culminated in a meeting of Kim’s former intelligence chief Kim Yong Chol in the White House Oval Office with Trump. The official is under punitive US sanctions but has emerged as the first North Korean official to have been welcomed there in 18 years.
The North Korean official delivered to Trump a letter from Kim that led him to announce the revival of the summit which is intended to ultimately de-nuclearise the recalcitrant country that has been holding out threats of a nuclear war engulfing the world at large.
Trump said it could take several meetings to reach an agreement, but he was convinced that Kim was committed to denuclearisation. This was an extraordinary change in tone from a president who last year threatened to rain “fire and fury like the world has never seen” on North Korea because of the threat its nuclear weapons and missiles posed to the US.
Trump said one thing that could come out of the summit is an agreement formally ending the 1950-53 Korean War, which was concluded only with a truce, not a peace treaty.
In recent times, no American president has evoked so much hatred and derision as Trump has in Europe as a result of his statements and policy pronouncements. He snubbed France, Germany and Britain by pulling out of a nuclear agreement with Iran and upset the Europeans, as well as neighbours Canada and Mexico, with protectionist trade policies.
Trump has turned US foreign policy on its head by his attitude towards NATO allies. His repudiation of the Paris climate deal which his predecessor Barack Obama had spearheaded has disturbed nations no end. That a done deal which addressed the climate change concerns of the international community could be so overturned by a successor regime within a democratic framework has shocked governments the world over.
Countries in Asia are particularly piqued by his tough immigration policies that have driven hordes of Indians and other nationalities to friendlier shores.
Yet, the world has reconciled to Trump’s ways knowing there is no option but to accept. In the US, students and the working class have been nurturing high expectations and to an extent their optimism on him has not been belied. The situation on the job front has improved and there is a feeling among many that his protectionism would pay off for the common American.
The blow hot, blow cold attitude towards Kim is being watched with interest. Many Americans feel he is giving in too much and is letting the North Korean dictator score propaganda points.
Even as Trump sounded conciliatory toward North Korea, Kim, during a televised encounter with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Pyongyang recently, alluded to “US hegemonism.”
The Chinese bonhomie towards Kim in recent days and the South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s two meetings with him in a month are being watched keenly by the Americans.
US officials have talked about a comprehensive one-shot deal in which North Korea fully eliminates its nukes first and receives rewards in economic concessions later. But Kim, through two summits with Chinese President Xi Jinping in March and May, has called for a phased and synchronized process in which every action he takes is met with a reciprocal reward from the US.
June 12 will indeed be a date to watch out for—will Trump score this time around or would he heap further embarrassment on the Americans?