by Laksiri Fernando
( May 3, 2017, Sydney, Sri Lanka Guardian) US President, Donald Trump, speaking to Bloomberg News (1 May) has said ‘he would consider meeting with Kim Jong-un, if the circumstances permit.’ This is not a bad idea at all, given the disastrous consequences that any future war in Korea would entail. Writing from Australia, the disaster of a war in the region is more real than writing from Sri Lanka. Trump earlier said, ‘Kim is a smart cookie, he must be having a tuff time with his generals.’
According to some, and also to me, this could be a reflection of Trump’s predicament as well. When he came to power, he appeared wanted to focus more on fixing the American economy and national policy than going after any ‘ideals’ or ‘interests’ outside the borders.
But then he took a dramatic turn, almost 90 degrees, and started pouncing on other countries. Sending Carl Vinson (Armada) to the Korean peninsula, and undertaking quite provocative military exercises in the demilitarised zone, with South Korea were part of this pouncing. Of course, the provocations were equally characteristic of the North Koreans in recent times. But on the part of Trump, this was a clear deviation from his declared policy, except calling names for China. China policy softened, while the Korean policy toughened. This is at least superficially.
‘Unpredictability’ or ‘erratic personal behaviour’ cannot be sufficient explanations for Trump’s about turns. As the events since the alleged CIA killing of John F. Kennedy, up until the dramatic changes of Barak Obama’s overseas policies signify, there is a strong State/Military Establishment behind many of the Presidents’ foreign policies. Obama’s ‘Pivot to Asia’ also was part of this establishment influence.
A major facet of this influence is to ‘take the enemies serious,’ ‘go after them,’ and ‘pounce on them as much as possible,’ to ‘teach them good lessons.’ Although Obama appeared one of the soft and liberal minded President’s that America has ever produced, preparations for “The Coming War on China” became intensified under Obama administration. What I have quoted above is the title of John Pilger’s recent documentary film on the subject, and that is also one of Pilger’s main arguments.
When Trump made dramatic turns in his foreign policy utterances, some even speculated whether the establishment has defeated his ‘populist-nationalist’ revolt? I also speculated on the same. Of course, it happened in practical terms, when the Courts turned down many of his executive orders on ‘travel ban’ or ‘border controls.’ But we in Sri Lanka or in Australia should be more worried about the other side of the coin.
He himself turned down his policies in the foreign affairs sphere. His best foreign-buddy, Vladimir Putin, during the election campaign, became a virtual enemy thereafter on issues in Syria. Not that we have any sympathy for Putin, but if the rapprochement continued, there was much hope for world peace and particularly in the Middle East. He somewhat denounced NATO as obsolete during elections, but in office recently, he openly announced that it is not the case.
James George Jatras (writing to the Journal of the Strategic Culture Foundation, 27 April) wondered whether this is only tactical, ‘one step forward, two steps back.’ Because Trump does not seem to have a firm grip on the government apparatus yet. He has to tread slowly, as the whole establishment beyond the state-apparatus is in a full fury against him. Jatras said, one of Trump’s closest advisors, Steve Bannon, is a ‘Leninist.’ Trump once called him “alt-left.”
That is anyway not our major concern, tactical or not. For world peace, what Trump has expressed as his readiness to meet with Kim is a welcome gesture, if it is genuine. The following what he exactly said on Monday.
“If it would be appropriate for me to meet with him, I would absolutely…I would be honored to do it. If it’s under … the right circumstances. But I would do that. Most political people would never say that… But I’m telling you under the right circumstances, I would meet with him.”
Over the weekend, he has also made a complementary remark of Kim Jong-un saying he is ‘a smart cookie.’ Sean Spicer, the White House spokesman, explained the praise: “He’s [Kim] obviously managed to lead his country forward. He is a young person to be leading a country with nuclear weapons.”
Previously, Trump also asked the UN to intervene and do more about North Korea (24 April). But not in the sense that we were suggesting (“Where is the UN? Korean Crisis is Aggravating,” 17 April). He was suggesting more and strong UN sanctions. That was typical of a ‘Western’ government or a state leader. There was no suggestion of ‘a carrot’ or negotiations or a meeting. During the height of the tensions, the UN Secretary General should have visited or approached the two countries and regimes (the North and the South). Or at least phoned. Otherwise, what is the purpose of the UN? But that didn’t happen. It is still appropriate since a meeting of the two leaders, Trump and Kim, would be far-fetched at the moment.
It is possible that Kim might respond positively in some manner for the suggestion of a meeting, but not his Generals. This is the same in the case of the US, particularly the establishment. Already, backtracking from Trump’s statement has started. It is possible even he himself might say ‘a meeting is not appropriate or possible! Day by day, tensions are mounting in the Korean peninsula.
Urgency for World Peace
It is important to resolve the Korean nuclear/missile crisis in a peaceful manner. World public opinion is of utmost importance at this stage. Lionel Bopage has also suggested that Australia should play a mediating role in resolving the crisis through peaceful means (“No war Against North Korea!” CT, 27 April). China in recent days has played a positive and a peaceful role, already trying to mediate at least some issues. China and especially her President, Xi Jinping, has earned President Trump’s favor since their meeting in early April. While I write, China has also welcomed Trump’s offer for a meeting with Kim.
Why not, therefore, President Xi mediating a meeting between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un, perhaps in Beijing? If it is achievable, the world would definitely enter into a new era of peaceful negotiations, if not full peace or harmony. Why not on the other hand, somebody in the White House phoning Pyongyang and appeasing their fears of an ‘imminent US nuclear war against them.’ According many experts, there are genuine and/or exaggerated fears of an imminent US war against them, in North Korea.
No one is going to benefit, not even the promoters, from most of the conflicts or war at national or international level. This is a general statement. Ordinary people are the main losers everywhere. The effort should not only be to achieve peace in the Korean peninsula but all over the world. A completely nuclear free world should be the ultimate target of these efforts. If the exorbitant money spent on nuclear and other destructive armaments are diverted/donated to good purposes such as poverty alleviation and environmental protection, the world would be a safe place for the new generations to live.