In Singapore, a start

June 17, 2018

His grandfather, Kim Il-sung started it 68 years ago when on June 25,1950 he sent some 90,000 North Korean troops pouring into South Korea and drove the unprepared and ill equipped U.S. backed Republic of Korea army reeling in retreat.

MacArthur’s Inchon landing turned the tide temporarily but in October, 1950 the Chinese responded to U.S. troops approaching the Yalu river and for the next 2 ½ years, the brutal, bloody back and forth measured but by the dead and wounded slogged on.

An armistice signed on July 27, 1953 ended the battles but preserved the problem. Kim Ill-sung survived and continued to lead his puppet nation until finally leaving this world July 8, 1994.

His son, Kim Jong-ill ruled until his death in 2011, which brings us to today and the world’s current problem child Kim Jong-un.

Following in the family footsteps Kim Jong-un has continued North Korea’s illicit nuclear weapons program without delay. A program that three past U.S. administrations have been unable to stop.

Bill Clinton tried with the “Agreed Framework” that for a while appeared to be working until the North Koreans were caught cheating and the Bush administration ended it. And with the United States mired in Iraq and Afghanistan, North Korea took full advantage. So it should have bee no surprised when on October 9, 2006 it announced the successful detonation of a nuclear weapon.

Two years later, with Barack Obama focused on internal transformation and external extrication North Korea’s nuclear program continued at will for another eight years.

When Donald J. Trump was elected in 2016, Kim Jong-un had no reason to think that things would be any different. North Korea would do some tests, launch some rockets, the U.S. would appear with offers of aide and the hermit kingdom would go about its way until the next time it wanted something.

So in 2017 the nuclear tests became more powerful, the rocket launches more frequent, and Kim sat back to wait on the next proposal of aide in exchange for halting its provocative behavior.

But rather than back down, President Trump built up. Carrier battle groups appeared around the Korean peninsula, B 52s, B1s, B2s and F 22s were deployed to forward bases around the region. Throw in a few “little rocket man” tweets and the reality that the U.S. nuclear button was not only bigger but worked and young Kim soon realized, that Donald J. Trump was unlike any President his family had ever faced.

Combined with the diplomatic diligence of U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, the one-two punch of economic sanctions backed up by military strength had Kim Jong-un boxed in.

He could either take a shot at peace or resign himself to ruling over rubble.

Secret visits with then CIA Director, now Secretary of State Mike Pompeo set the stage and the date June 12th , 2018 is now forever tied to the term Singapore Summit.

As far as substance goes the signed “agreement” isn’t much. Frankly, I find it thinner than Chamberlain’s famous “peace for our time” letter from Uncle Adolf those 70 plus years ago.

Only time and actions will tell if Kim Jong-un is serious. If unlike his father and grandfather he can actually be trusted. The he truly does want to bring his country out of the dark ages.

My gut is that as a 34 year old millennial educated in Switzerland we might just have a chance. That the old hard line adherence to party and ideology doesn’t pull as hard at him as it did the old guard.

And maybe, just maybe, by now he’s seen that satellite image of night time on the peninsula. The brilliance of hundreds of thousands of lights in the South, one speck of light from Pyongyang in the North.

That his path to glory is not being toasted by generals and lackeys, but cheered by his countrymen for releasing them from the shackles of the past and giving them life.

Kim is young, he has decades of life left, I just don’t think he wants to live it out in the dark as a puppet of China and Russia. That he’s smart enough to see that if he’s ever to be his own man, it will be as the leader who leads North Korea out of the darkness.

That is where I put my hope. If I’m wrong, then no piece of paper will help. War will come to the peninsula and many millions could die.

But Tuesday was a start. A start that we should all pray for.

And yes, it’s only a start, but isn’t a start to peace better than a prelude to war?

Publisher Note:  A version of this column first appeared in the June 17, 2018 print edition of the Joplin Globe.

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