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US-North Korea deal ‘an important first step’  

15 June 2018


President Donald Trump and Chairman Kim Jong-un at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa Island in Singapore, on Tuesday, during their summit

President Donald Trump and Chairman Kim Jong-un at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa Island in Singapore, on Tuesday, during their summit

THE agreement signed by President Donald Trump of the United States and Chairman Kim Jong-un of North Korea on Tuesday, committing North Korea to denuclearisation, has been widely welcomed.

At a summit in Singapore, President Trump also agreed to suspend US military exercises with South Korea, ending what he called “provocative war games”.

The leaders agreed to work towards “peace and prosperity”; formally end the Korean war; work towards denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula; and repatriate the remains of soldiers from the Korean war.

They also invited each other to visit their respective capitals: President Trump agreed to visit Pyongyang “at a convenient time”.

President Moon, of South Korea, called the meeting the “summit of the century”, but said that his government would need clarification on the pledge to end military exercises.

After the talks, the general secretary of the World Council of Churches, the Revd Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, spoke of the agreement as “an important first step on the path to a more peaceful and secure future in the region”. He said: “As the joint statement signed by both leaders acknowledges, the detailed and difficult work of translating these mutual affirmations into action is now just beginning.

“We call upon the leaders of both nations to remain committed to the path of dialogue for peace, and to resist impulses to revert to the confrontational rhetoric of the past.”

He continued: “We pray that the commitment to denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula will give impetus to global nuclear disarmament efforts without which freedom from this existential threat can never be secured.”

An international charity that supports persecuted Christians, Open Doors, estimated that between 50,000 and 70,000 Christians are imprisoned in North Korea for their beliefs.

President Trump said that he had discussed human rights with Chairman Kim, but there was no commitment in the agreement on this. He admitted that the issue was “discussed relatively briefly” in comparison with denuclearisation.

The Asia Pacific advocacy manager at Amnesty International USA, Francisco Bencosme, said on Tuesday: “There are no ‘great winners’ when North Korea continues to commit systemic, widespread, and grave violations of human rights, some of which may amount to crimes against humanity.

“It must close its prison camps, where up to 120,000 people continue to be held; protect freedom of expression; and reunite families separated through displacement during the war, forced disappearances, or abductions.”

The Pope’s ambassador to Korea, Archbishop Alfred Xuereb, said that the talks were “truly historic” and “very important”. He told Vatican News: “It marks the beginning of a still long and arduous journey, but we are hopeful because the start has been very positive, very good.”

The Roman Catholic Archbishop Kim Hee-Jung of Gwangju, in South Korea, called the summit “a surprise and a joy”.  “Peace is never attained once and for all, but must be built up ceaselessly,” he said. The RC Church in Korea has also proposed a novena from 17 to 25 June to pray for “peace, reconciliation, and unity” on the Korean peninsula.

The secretary-general of the UN, António Guterres, said that it was “an important milestone in the advancement of sustainable peace and the complete and verifiable denuclearisation on the Korean Peninsula”. In a statement released on Tuesday, Mr Guterres urged both sides “to seize this momentous opportunity”.

In April, North and South Korea made a commitment to “lasting peace”. It was cautiously welcomed by church groups (News, 27 April).

YONAP NEWS AGENCY/RODONG SINMUN/PAKim Jong-un and President Trump shake hands before the Singapore summit, on Wednesday

Summit will ‘open doors’. JOHN CHOI, a North Korean escapee who works with the organisation Open Doors, said on Tuesday that the summit was an “interesting step”, and a “historic moment”, but that it was a disappointment, too.

“It was an interesting step: it opened doors, and will bring more opportunities. It was a historic moment that was very important,” Mr Choi said. “I was disappointed as well, because we were expecting [President] Trump to address human-rights issues and crimes against humanity more. He did mention it in his press conference, and it was clear that he was hoping to discuss this more in the future, but it would have been good to see this now.

“Whatever steps happen next, the denuclearisation process will begin, which is a good thing. Kim Jong-un gave his unwavering commitment. The regime will have more money to spend on citizens. Once North Korea is willing to denuclearise, the international community can think about ending some of the sanctions.

“I am hoping that this is the beginning of a long-term process. It is a huge opportunity for Kim Jong-un himself, and it will be portrayed as a great achievement in North Korea: this will be the new propaganda.

“This situation will help him design a new type of dictatorship, like China. The important part is the denuclearisation, as Kim Jong-un needs support in the country to build up the economy. We have to understand that he is not going to reform everywhere, just a few provinces.

“Also, we are a long way from freedoms, like freedom of religion and freedom of speech in North Korea. International solidarity from Christians around the world is very important.”

Read our leader comment on the events, here

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