Ross Greenwood speaks to the Australian National University’s John Blaxland as US President Donald Trump North Korea has agreed to work towards the de-nuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.
Introduction: The Deal-Maker and the Dictator
Ross Greenwood: As we go to air this evening, we’re just waiting on a media conference to come out of Singapore where of course that historic meeting has taken place today between the US President Donald Trump and the North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un. This particular summit that they have held earlier on today is the precursor to a media statement that will come very shortly. There’s already been a signed agreement between the two men and broadly four key points.
The US and North Korea will commit to establish a new relations in accordance with the desire of the peoples of the two countries for peace and prosperity. The US and North Korea will join their efforts to build a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula, and referring the April 27 Declaration, North Korea will commit to work towards the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Fourth, the US and North Korea commit to recovering prisoners of war, people missing in action, remains including the immediate repatriation of those already identified.
As I said, we’ll go to the media conference as soon as it comes to hand. Let’s just pick up a little bit today of Donald Trump at the conclusion of that meeting.
President Donald President Donald Trump: We’ve developed a very special bond. People are going to be very impressed, people are going to be very happy. We’re going to take care of a big and very dangerous problem for the world and I want to thank Chairman Kim. We’ve spent a lot of time together today, very intensive time and I would actually say that it worked out for both of us far better than anybody could have expected.
Ross Greenwood: Okay, in response but before signing the contracts there which I’ve explained the details of to you, here’s Kim Jong Un throwing into that part of.
President Kim Jong Un: We had a historic meeting and decided to leave the past behind and we’re about to sign the historic document. The world will see a major change. I would like to express my gratitude to President Trump to make this meeting happen.
Ross Greenwood: There you go, there is Kim Jong Un. Also, then Trump was asked just randomly by the media there as to what would happen next?
Reporter: Are you going to invite Chairman Kim to the White House?
President Donald Trump: Absolutely, I will.
Ross Greenwood: In other words, he might be on his way to the White House. Well, will it stick? Is it real? The head of the department of the Australian National University Strategic and Defence Study Center is Prof. John Blaxland who is online right now. Many thanks for your time John.
Interview with: John Blaxland, ANU, Head of Strategic and Defence Studies
John Blaxland: Thanks for having me on this story Ross.
Ross Greenwood: We’re just waiting on this media conference to take place. We’ll cut in our conversation at that time but stick around because I want your reaction to some of what we might hear. I guess the question is whether that declaration that came from Trump and Kim really is terribly different as compared with what Kim had signed previously with his meetings with the South Korean Prime Minister?
John Blaxland: Yes, that’s a good question. What is different is that this is with President Trump. President Moon for South Korea had always been much more well disposed towards a reconciliation with North Korea. President Trump had been much more adversarial with a view to getting concessions, but this appears to be a very significant breakthrough. Credit to President Trump for pulling it off and for Kim for agreeing to it.
The devil now will be in the details of course, because delivering on those four key points is easier said than done. There are many stakeholders, there are many potential rub points, there are many issues which could yet see this unravel. On the face of it, this is a remarkable breakthrough. This is a remarkable agreement.
That first point might see for instance American diplomatic presence in North Korea, perhaps in Pyongyang. The wording suggests that. One of the things that was very interesting, I didn’t hear him say was that that would see the end of the war. Maybe that will come, maybe talk of turning the armistice into a fully blown peace agreement, it might yet come. That wasn’t stipulated.
It does seem that there is still some prospect for the direction of it to be shifted and of course, we know that President Trump has a track record for changing his mind on things. He was going to agree to the G7 Summit statement, then lo and behold he didn’t, and that was only 36 or so hours ago. This is a president who likes to play as part of his out of the deal, this game of making an apparent agreement and then backing off to get further concessions or to get the adversary or his opponent off balance and to get even greater success.
Now, it’s worked for him on a number of fronts and at face value right now, it’s quite extraordinary. This is divine international relation, international security experts around the globe who have predicted dire outcomes. I myself have been deeply skeptical about this so far. I remain concerned obviously. We need to keep our eyes well and truly opened and while we’re cracking the champagne, be mindful that tomorrow morning we could wake up yet with a headache.
Ross Greenwood: Okay, John, can you just explain one other thing for our audience and that is if we are highly optimistic and as you say, there can be lots of hurdles along the way, that there is some sort of a peace that might break out on the Korean Peninsula. If there is some more open attitude of North Korea and indeed some of the nuclear threats are dissipated in that region. What does it mean for the Korean Peninsula? What does it mean for Australia and our part of the world?
John Blaxland: What it means for the Korean Peninsula is a transformation. If it comes to pass, as I say there’s quite a lot yet to come to happen before they get to the point. If there is denuclearization, if the agreement is followed through and Kim Jong Un sticks to it and Donald Trump feels a need to follow through as well then we have a transformation of the equation.
Ross Greenwood: I tell you what John, I’m going to jump in now. We’ll go to the press, President Trump in Singapore right now.
President Donald Trump: Twenty four hours in that tremendous four months actually because this has been going on for quite a while now. That was a tape that we gave to Chairman Kim and his people, his representatives and it captures a lot, it captures what could be done and that’s a great place. It has a potential to be an incredible place between South Korea, if you think about it and China, that’s got tremendous potential. I think he understands that and he wants to do what’s right.
It’s my honour today to address the people of the world following this very historic summit with Chairman Kim Jong Un of North Korea. We spent very intensive hours together and I think most of you have gotten the signed document or you will very shortly. It’s very comprehensive, it’s going to happen. I stand before you as an emissary of the American people to deliver a message of hope and vision and a message of peace.
Let me begin by thanking our incredible host in Singapore, especially Prime Minister Lee, a friend of mine. This is a country of profound grace and beauty and we send our warmest wishes to every citizen of Singapore who really made this visit so important and so pleasant in spite all of the work and all of the long hours.
I also want to thank President Moon of South Korea. He’s working hard. In fact, I’ll be speaking to him right after we’re finished. Prime Minister Abe of Japan, a friend of mine. Just left our country, and he wants what’s right for Japan and for the world. Good man.
A very special person, President Xi of China who has really closed up that border maybe a little less so over the last couple of months, but that’s okay. He really has and he’s a terrific person and a friend of mine and really a great leader of his people. I want to thank them for their efforts to help us get to this very historic day.
Most importantly, I want to thank Chairman Kim for taking the first bold step toward a bright new future for his people. Our unprecedented meeting, the first between an American President and a leader of North Korea proves that real change is indeed possible. My meeting with Chairman Kim was honest, direct and productive. We got to know each other well in a very confined period of time under very strong strong circumstance. We’re prepared to start a new history and we’re ready to write a new chapter between our nations.
Nearly 70 years ago, think of that, 70 years ago an extremely bloody conflict ravaged the Korean Peninsula. Countless people died in the conflict including tens of thousands of brave Americans. Yet while the armistice was agreed to, the war never ended to this day, it never ended. Now, we can all have hope that it will soon end. It will, it will soon end. The past does not have to define the future. Yesterday’s conflict does not have to be tomorrow’s war.
As history has proven over and over again, adversaries can indeed become friends. We can honor the sacrifice of our forefathers by replacing the horrors of battle with the blessings of peace. That’s what we’re doing and that’s what we have done. There is no limit to what North Korea can achieve when it gives up its nuclear weapons and embraces commerce and engagement with the rest of the world that really wants to engage.
Chairman Kim has before him an opportunity like no other to be remembered as the leader who ushered in a glorious new era of security and prosperity for his people. Chairman Kim and I just signed a joint statement which he reaffirmed his unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. We also agreed to vigorous negotiations to implement the agreement as soon as possible and he wants to do that.
This isn’t the past. This isn’t another administration that never got it started and therefore never got it done. Chairman Kim has told me that North Korea is already destroying a major missile engine testing site. That’s not in your signed document, we agreed to that after the agreement was signed. That’s a big thing. For the missiles that they were testing, the site is going to be destroyed very soon.
Today is the beginning of an arduous process. Our eyes are wide open, but peace is always worth the effort especially in this case. This should have been done years ago.
Ross Greenwood: I might leave the media conference there. I’ll go back to Professor John Blaxland, head of Department of ANU Strategic and Defence Study Center. As you heard there, I think the key part of that is that John as you mentioned a little earlier, was when he talked that after 70 years there could be peace on the Korean Peninsula, which would come with the denuclearization that you’ve now had an agreement for from Kim Jong Un. That’s the key to this, isn’t it?
John Blaxland: Yes, absolutely, that’s pretty big. President Trump also talked about going from the armistice to a peace agreement, which wasn’t in the four points. That is a big point as well. This is quite extraordinary, really is quite extraordinary. But there are some knock-on ramifications that we need to be mindful of, Ross. Here is a couple of them:
Firstly, if we have a Peace Agreement the denuclearization conceivably could see Australian Inspectors. We were involved in inspecting Iraq in the 1990’s. Richard Butler headed that. We had some military people like now Major General Rodger Noble doing some very significant work in chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons inspection stuff. We have skills in that space.
It’s quite conceivable that Australian Nuclear- ANSTO as well as the chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear capabilities of this driving army could be called upon at fairly short notice actually, to go on and do this if President Trump’s got it right, to verify the denuclearization. That’s one thing that is very interesting to note.
Secondly, of course, is if there is this Peace Agreement then United Nation’s command that was set up to wage the war in 1950 and that supervised the armistice since 1953 for the last 65 years, it could board as well. It got forces in Korea and elements in Japan as well. If that goes, the US forces in Korea go as well. Here is an interesting thought. If that happens, we might see the Korean Peninsula stripped of American military presence. That would mean the United State would for the first time since 1945, I think, be physically removed from a consistent presence of forces on Mainland Asia.
Ross Greenwood: It’s going to be a big thing. I’ve got to keep moving John. I appreciate your time very much and your response after hearing that media conference with President Donald Trump. Professor John Blaxland, head of the department of ANU Strategic and Defence Study Center, with us here on the program this evening. We appreciate your time John.
John Blaxland: Thanks, Ross.
Ross Greenwood: Just the final one before I let you go, that is subsequent to what you heard from President Trump. He also indicated that for the time being sanctions will remain in place which makes some sense. So those tough sanctions against North Korea will stay in place until, I guess, the deal is honored.
[00:15:07] [END OF AUDIO]
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