When U.S. President Donald Trump meets a man who was formerly reviled globally for his relentless pursuit of nuclear tests, there will be smiles, lengthy handshakes, and a celebratory atomsphere befitting the coming together of the two most unlikeliest bed fellows. Who would have imagined just a year ago that Washington and Pyongyang could come to the table to negotiate? But they have, and both sides will most certainly trumpet this as a breakthrough in modern political history.
For 30-plus-year-old Kim Jong Un, this is the ultimate legitimising of his position as a world leader and player, in a global society that once shun him. This is his moment to be taken seriously.
For Trump, this meeting is perhaps nothing more than a publicity blitz to revel in the limelight akin to that of a superstar boxing bout between say Floyd Mayweather vs Conor McGregor. It’s all showbiz for the former ‘Apprentice’ TV star, another feather on the cap for the man obsessed with branding himself.
Another winner? Singapore. In PR parlance, this is a masterclass in ‘news jacking’ and getting the Singapore brand in the news, in what could be millions of dollars worth of publicising the city state as a MICE haven through the global headlines and buzz. GOAL! Goal! And more goals!
While there’s plenty of skepticism to go around about this meeting, the summit will most certainly be the start of a new chapter in the narrative of global politics. Yes, international media reports show US officials pulling out all the stops in reaching out to the North to provide economic aid, if they cease their nuclear programme, but what will actually be accomplished in limiting the North’s nuclear ambitions remain very obscure. In fact, historians will most certainly put the Trump-Kim meeting in the greater context of the geopolitical wrangling between China and the US.
North Korea has always been a pawn in the power play between Beijing and Washington. As part of Sino-US negotiations, China has always been sought to rein in their North Korean ally. This time, the political posturing appears to be no different with Chinese President Xi Jinping himself attending the meeting in Singapore. Kim will likely take Xi’s advice and possibly agenda onto the table in any form of negotiation between himself and Trump.
Pyongyang appears to be central to the looming trade war between US and China. One hopes that Singapore can be a positive broker between the global powers, in what appears to be a publicity stunt for Kim and Trump.