Cut-and-paste in Singapore

Published: June 13, 2018
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Billed as the ‘Summit of the Century’ the meeting between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump in the end fell short of the lowest expectations. The four-point declaration that the two men signed was anodyne, non-specific and offered no hostages to fortune. It may or may not hold promise for the future, and goes nowhere in addressing the appalling civil rights abuses that the Kim regime holds fast to. Do not forget that in the recent past Kim killed his uncle who dissented and probably his half-brother who he had poisoned with a nerve agent. Tens of thousands languish in labour camps; the wider population lives a hand to mouth existence with some of them eternally teetering on the edge of starvation.

No matter, Kim Jong-un came in from the cold to a cautious welcome from the global community of nations and President Trump got the photo-op to end all photo-ops, and a guaranteed place in the history books. Cynicism aside the Singapore Fling was a bromance that may produce results albeit not immediately and never in lockstep with traditional diplomacy. As long as Trump is in the White House, nothing is ever going to go by the playbook. But he is not the only gamer at the console, and Kim has, for whatever opaque reasons, played well thus far. Within a matter of months he has gone from reviled pariah to being greeted with cheers whilst on a walkabout in downtown Singapore. Plus he managed to get somebody else to pick up the tab for his stay in one of the most expensive hotels in the city, and for the Chinese national airline to run a pick-and-drop service for him. Not bad for a beginner.

If the agreement is truly the start of a process then the world is truly a safer place and all credit due to both men. Kim is invited to Washington at an unspecified date. And will human rights be on the agenda? Almost certainly not, they are not something that much troubles either man.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 13th, 2018.

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