How is Donald Trump seen in Singapore
Trump and Kim Summit : Korea connoisseur: "It's a win-win situation"
Rüdiger Frank traveled to North Korea for the first time in 1991, the last time he was in the country in May 2018. The professor of economics and society in East Asia at the University of Vienna explains in an interview how he assesses the talks and the agreement between US President Donald Trump and North Korea's ruler Kim Jong Un and what impact they could have.
Why do you see the Singapore meeting as a first positive step?
It's simple: the problems that need to be solved are huge and have been around for many, many years. That requires an incredibly complex process. If Trump had tried to solve this in a summit, it would have been a preprogrammed failure. The fact that he has now got to know Mr. Kim for the first time, that they have basically agreed, with meaningless words on something like a small common multiple, is the best basis that one can have for a productive process in the future.
What could this productive process look like?
We'll see; it will certainly be gradual and protracted. But at least they didn't ruin it by setting unrealistic goals right from the start.
Hasn't Trump given up too much for this, for example by legitimizing Kim by meeting at eye level?
That's nonsense. I think it's unspeakable, to think that it's a great concession to talk to someone. Americans have been making this mistake for 20 years. If you have an employee in your company who is difficult, talk to him more than to those who cooperate well. Precisely because there is a problem that needs to be solved. Talking to Kim is the basic requirement for everything else. It's called diplomacy.
Hasn't the meeting already strengthened Kim internally?
Nice. That strengthens him inwardly, that strengthens him outwardly. But if you want someone to give them, give them too. If you go to a business meeting, you might bring a bottle of wine or a small gift with you. Nothing has happened so far, but nothing has gone wrong either.
Trump also gives up military maneuvers with South Korea ...
... he said, as long as the talks are taking place, we'll leave the military maneuvers. That's okay, the North Koreans released three Americans for this, they blew up the nuclear test facility, and they announced that they also wanted to shut down a missile test facility. So, there is really a give and take on both sides.
The Chinese are already thinking about easing the sanctions.
They weren't fans of it from the start because they're not interested in destabilizing it. But they had to go along with the West because the North Koreans hadn't given them any other option. And now they are very happy that the opportunity arises to return to cooperation. In addition, China tries to remain an active player throughout history. For them this is of immediate security interest, Korea is a neighboring state - like Cuba is for the USA.
No military maneuvers, lifting of sanctions for China, strengthening internally and externally for Kim - didn't just one win?
It's a win-win situation for me. We'd have to add all the things that happened before to be fair. The North Koreans have given up something. One must not forget that, after the Americans have been turned into enemies for so long, it is ultimately also a risk for Kim to show himself with Trump in front of his own people with a handshake. The release of the three Americans, the demolition of the nuclear test facility, and incidentally also the unspecific but clear commitment to denuclearization that Kim repeated - that is definitely on Trump's credit side.
At the end of the day it's only things that sound nice and can be taken back up until now. But military maneuvers can also be started again immediately, and sanctions have not yet been lifted. At the moment we are still in the preparatory phase. Really substantial has not happened yet, not from either side.
Aren't the progressive images from Singapore dangerous for Kim?
If you look at Future Scientist Street at night in Pyongyang, it looks quite similar. There is also a saying from Kim Jong Il that says: Keep your feet firmly on the ground, let's turn our eyes to the world. The North Koreans have always had the strategy of saying it's okay to look outside and learn from others. As long as we implement this in the patriotic sense at home.
The North Koreans have known the pictures we have now seen from Singapore for a long time from Shanghai, Beijing and Shenyang. I don't see this as a risk, but rather as a kind of confirmation for the Führer: that he is such a cosmopolitan statesman. And as a motivation for your own people: Look, this is what our future will look like if things continue like this.
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