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The Singapore Statement: Broad, Vague, but 'I'll Take It'

Jean H. Lee

Instead of the grand, historic nuclear deal to end all nuclear deals that President Trump had promised, we got a 360-word statement from Singapore that was broad in scope and vague in wording. But I’ll take it.

The Singapore Statement: Broad, Vague, but 'I'll Take It'

Instead of the grand, historic nuclear deal to end all nuclear deals that President Trump had promised, we got a 360-word statement from Singapore that was broad in scope and vague in wording. But I’ll take it. 

Going into this summit, I was concerned about what President Trump might offer in terms of security assurances in order to nail down a historic deal. My fear was that assurances such as agreeing to withdraw U.S. troops from South Korea would leave that country vulnerable to an untrustworthy North Korea.

What the two leaders did finally agree upon, after what must have been arduous negotiations in the Demilitarized Zone between their respective teams, showed that the summit in Singapore is the start of discussions between the United States and North Korea. The value of opening those channels of communication cannot be underestimated, and after decades of tensions, what these two Korean War foes need is to build trust and confidence. Working together on the recovery of Korean War veterans’ remains is one such trust-building project.

While I don’t agree with the way President Trump approached this summit, we need to look pragmatically at potential outcomes and next steps. There was nothing historic about this summit other than the handshake, and it remains to be seen whether the Trump administration will be able to hold North Korea accountable and prevent the regime from sliding back to its past bad behavior. But these steps forward are the only way to go, and are reasonable first steps.

About the Author

Jean H. Lee

Jean H. Lee

Director, Hyundai Motor-Korea Foundation Center for Korean History and Public Policy,
Journalist and former Pyongyang Bureau Chief, Associated Press
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Hyundai Motor-Korea Foundation Center for Korean History and Public Policy

The Center for Korean History and Public Policy was established in 2015 with the generous support of the Hyundai Motor Company and the Korea Foundation to provide a coherent, long-term platform for improving historical understanding of Korea and informing the public policy debate on the Korean peninsula in the United States and beyond.  Read more

Asia Program

The Asia Program promotes policy debate and intellectual discussions on U.S. interests in the Asia-Pacific as well as political, economic, security, and social issues relating to the world’s most populous and economically dynamic region.   Read more