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Kim’s debut, Trump’s isolation

June 14,2018
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Kim Hyun-ki
*The author is a Washington bureau chief. This column was filed from Singapore.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has her hands on the table and stares with discontent, while French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Theresa May seem to be helping out Merkel. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is standing by them with a complex facial expression. U.S. President Donald Trump is sitting on a chair with his arms folded and looking at the others. He looks as if to say, “Why are they doing this to me?”

The photo from the Group of 7 summit in Quebec, which the German chancellor’s office posted on Instagram on June 9, shows the divided international structure of the Group of 6 vs. the United States. It reminds me of the photo of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton watching the Navy Seal raid to kill Osama bin Laden in the White House situation room with her hand over her mouth.

It is interesting how Germany released the G-7 photo. At first, the White House posted a photo of the world leaders surrounding Trump and pleasantly talking. It looked as if Trump was the center of the conversation. Then, the German Chancellor’s office shared a photo from another angle. Its intention is clear. BBC said the photo showed that the values which the Western world have tried to protect since World War II are breaking apart because of Trump.

On Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada, the host of the G-7 summit, Trump tweeted, “I have instructed our U.S. reps not to endorse the communiqué,” calling him “very dishonest & weak.” I am not surprised by the tweet attack. We have gotten used to it. However, the G-6 leaders cannot take it for granted. They must continue to fight with Trump. Has the Western world ever been so divided and uncomfortable?

Trump is not only isolated in the international community. Despite his solid 30 percent supporter base, Trump is increasingly isolated in the United States as well. The Republican Party has the majority in Congress now, but the situation will change if the Democrats win the midterm elections in five months. The problem is that Trump’s isolation is likely to be a major variable in the resolution of the North Korean nuclear problem.

Democratic Senator Robert Menendez — current ranking member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations who could become the next chairman — is the obstacle that Trump has to overcome. But Menendez is appalled by the Trump style. Recently, he outlined five conditions to lift the sanctions on the North: an agreement for a permanent CVID; dismantlement and removal of every single one of North Korea’s nuclear, chemical and biological weapons; end of the production and enrichment of uranium and plutonium for military purposes; destruction of nuclear test sites, research and enrichment facilities; and dismantlement and elimination of all ballistic missiles and programs.

They are quite distant from the outcome of the June 12 U.S.-North summit. It is highly likely that the traction for ratification by Congress and for North Korea’s bold moves will face obstacles. Trump’s isolation may haunt the Korean Peninsula for a long time.

Kim Jong-un, who had been a synonym for isolation, made a spectacular debut on the international stage by touring Singapore’s Marina Bay at night and meeting with Trump on Sentosa Island. Trump has pulled Kim out of isolation, but is himself trapped in isolation. It is ironic that the isolation of Trump, who brought North Korea to the negotiation table, has become a major variable hindering the nuclear resolution. Kim seemed happy to have a night out in Singapore, while Trump was busy sending angry tweets. The contrasting leaders remind us that nothing lasts forever in life and history.

JoongAng Ilbo, June 13, Page 26