Even by the usual reckless standards of Donald Trump’s foreign policy, he has managed single-handedly to derail the total denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula in a move that puts peace and stability at risk, again.
The continuation of joint military drills by the United States and South Korea was always high on North Korea’s list of concerns, regardless of their motive. Trump’s decision to continue these monthly operations, after initially suspending them, shows that he truly believed he had strong-armed Kim Jong Un into capitulating on his nuclear weapons stockpile.
However, that brinksmanship is an extremely volatile game to play, with potentially dangerous and Earth-shattering results. Regardless of an agreed US-North Korean summit and the beginning of positive North-South dialogue last month, de-nuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula was never sewn up. The President’s ego, coupled with an erratic foreign policy, supported by new National Security Advisor John Bolton, was the nail in the coffin for any long-term solution to the crisis.
The opportunities presented themselves to Donald Trump when Kim Jong Un met with his South Korean counterpart, with North Korea agreeing to destroy its nuclear facilities. But, if Trump is to avoid conflict, he must stop treating diplomacy like a business negotiation. The President has deliberately duped the North Koreans here, as hours after they destroyed some of their nuclear facilities in view of the world’s media, he pulled the plug on the chances of true peace on the Peninsula.
Furthermore, if there was any possibility of a trusting relationship between the United States and North Korea, the nature of this latest episode in Trump’s diplomacy will certainly have ruled that out. This move will almost certainly affect the safety of the United States’ regional allies - primarily South Korea and Japan - who have been threatened with North Korean military activity in the recent past.
The fact is that Donald Trump is playing politics with people’s lives and the wellbeing of not only those in the region, but also North Koreans who suffer heavily at the hands of the regime. With this collapse in relations will come further sanctions and a larger possibility of conflict, as the regime ploughs more money into its nuclear programme, adding to the already extremely serious famine in North Korea, which is estimated to have already contributed to the deaths of millions.
The North Koreans have made serious concessions, showing their willingness to take part in a peace strategy with the United States. The release of three American hostages, the destruction of their nuclear facilities, and finally ending the Korean War with South Korea, has shown that Kim Jong Un had serious intentions about this summit with the United States.
As long as President Trump is in office, the risk of conflict across the world will always be present. Not only on the Korean Peninsula, but also in the Middle East as Trump continues to act provocatively in Jerusalem and Iran. It must be understood that the scuppering of such a unique chance for long-term peace in Korea is unprecedented, after, if only for a brief moment, Donald Trump could have been the US President to solve this crisis.
Fabian Hamilton is the Labour MP for Leeds North East and Shadow Minister for Peace and Disarmament