1 May 2018Feature
Last Friday, the world witnessed a truly historic moment — the meeting of the leaders of North and South Korea. As Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in shook hands and crossed the border together, smiles ablaze, I think everyone watching understood that this meeting signalled a new era; possibly an era of lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula.
From the threat of nuclear war to talking about building a brighter future together, many, including myself, were stunned by how well Kim and Moon got on. While experts downplayed the importance of the summit, many in the media hailed it as a success, which then raised the question of who was responsible for bringing about this diplomatic willingness from the North. One thing is certain — it was not Trump.
Many of you have likely seen the headlines suggesting the US President may be on his way to getting a Nobel Peace Prize. From the Huffington Post to Fox News, everyone in the US media seem to believe this is actually possible. Possible? Yes. Deserving? No. This article does not come from a place of bias. While I do not like Trump’s politics, I do believe in giving credit where it is due; but in this case, the Trump Administration has been the equivalent of an aggressive, overly-competitive soccer mum at her kid’s match. In fact, the US has made almost no contribution to getting Kim Jong-un to the table.
You’re probably thinking, “But what about the sanctions?” Yes, the US did push for harsh sanctions on North Korea. However, it is unclear what impact these sanctions have had, with many experts saying they have done very little. The main reason for this is China’s trade relationship with North Korea. While imports from the DPRK to China fell by 16.7% in the first quarter of 2017, China’s exports to North Korea grew by 20.9%. This is probably because China did not want a humanitarian crisis on its border and also, who was going to force China to abide by the sanctions? So, the sanctions, while not entirely useless, were more symbolic than anything.
Aside from that, time and time again the Trump Administration has failed diplomatically and instead pursued a path of confrontation. In particular, the US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley has proven she is incompetent when it comes to diplomacy, and not only regarding North Korea. After Kim showed a willingess to talk to South Korea in his new year address, Haley said: “We won’t take any of the talks seriously if they don’t do something to ban all nuclear weapons in North Korea.” After a year of escalation in 2017, this was the first indication that there might be an option other than war. In addition to Haley’s careless, bull-headed response, Trump decided it would be a good idea to respond to Kim’s warning of having a nuclear launch button on his desk by tweeting:
North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the “Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.” Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 3, 2018
Aside from that, there have been a number of reckless statements made by Trump regarding North Korea and Kim himself, none of which were conducive to any kind of peace. Meanwhile, South Korea has been working continuously hard to reach out to the North. It was South Korea that sent a diplomatic mission to Pyongyang and brokered the recent inter-Korean summit as well as a meeting between Trump and Kim. All Trump did was accept. The only thing that Trump has done to help the situation was sending Mike Pompeo to Pyongyang — that’s it. But again, that would not have been possible if South Korea had not been so persistent with its northern neighbour.
US foreign policy toward the DPRK is exactly why it is like it is. It is a country which is convinced the world is against them, specifically the US, which has a tendency to invade countries like North Korea. I have no love for the DPRK, and I did support pre-emptive strikes on its nuclear development sites and military installations at the height of the tensions in 2017 — it looked as though there was no other option, and I know I was not alone in this. What we did not see was the diplomatic efforts being made by the South. All of the attention was on the US and North Korea as the two countries traded insults and threats.
So, no, Trump does not deserve a Nobel Peace Prize, regardless of how well the meeting between him and Kim goes. President Moon Jae-in, however, has shown true leadership and statesmanship, and it is under his government that this breakthrough was made. If anyone deserves a Nobel Peace Prize for de-escalation on the Korean Peninsula, it’s him.