See More on Facebook

Diplomacy

Asian Editors Circle: Kim and Trump: A dangerous bromance

Self-touted good relationship between the two meaningless without denuclearisation.


Written by

Updated: September 2, 2019

When they hurled insults at each other such as “little rocket man” and “dotard,” and traded threats of nuclear annihilation, few could imagine that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump would develop such a lasting bromance in so little time.
Like any other close relationship, there must have been some sort of chemistry between the 36-year old North Korean leader and the septuagenarian US president.
Think not only about their age gap and geographical separation but also the fact that their countries fought a war and have since remained ideological archenemies.
The chemistry, however, is not as natural and wholesome as it is in most relationships between many ordinary men. The relationship between Kim and Trump may well be calculated and purposeful, which makes their bond a potentially dangerous one.
Kim’s motives
One of Kim’s motives for personally grooming Trump is to preserve the nuclear status quo. Kim declared on November 2017 that his country had completed the work needed to become a nuclear power, citing a successful test-firing of an intercontinental ballistic missile that can deliver a nuclear device to the US mainland. Trump is playing into Kim’s hands if their bromance only helps the North hold on to its nuclear weapons.
In fact, Trump insists that there is no problem with his handling of the North, as long as Kim keeps his promise not to order another nuclear or ICBM test.
This does not bode well for disarming the Pyongyang regime, which is believed to have tens of nuclear weapons and a massive – biochemical arsenal as well.
Trump is soft on Kim and Kim is exploiting this by continuing to test new types of short-range missiles and rockets. Trump had already given approval to the North’s “microaggressions” by saying that many countries test short-range missiles. Most recently, Trump, citing the contents of a personal letter, said that Kim made a “small apology” to him for the tests. It is apparent that
the two of them now take North Korea’s missile testing for granted.

In other words, thanks partly to his bromance with Trump, Kim is able to hold on to his nuclear weapons and has no qualms about continuing to improve missile technologies. South Korean officials say the missiles North Korea tested this year include new types that are harder to intercept.

Another benefit Kim is drawing from his bond with the US president is that, unlike his forbears, he can live without fear of a US preemptive attack as long as the peace mood continues. Kim must be well aware that Bill Clinton planned to make a precision strike on the North’s key nuclear facilities in Yongbyon in 1994 during the first nuclear crisis, which started with Pyongyang’s withdrawal from the Non- proliferation Treaty the previous year. The plan was aborted due to opposition from then South Korean President Kim Young-sam.

Elsewhere, Kim’s bromance with Trump helps boost the young dictator’s political and personal profile at home and abroad. His grandfather, the North’s founder Kim Il-sung, and his father Kim Jong-il were notoriously aloof. Overseas trips were rare, except to China and Russia, and they even kept their wives out of the public eye.

The Swiss-educated junior Kim is breaking that mold, using his relationships with Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in to earn him and his country international exposure. The series of summit meetings Kim has had with Trump, Moon, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin have put him and his wife Ri Sol-ju in the global limelight.

Through such high-profile events, Kim has avoided the image created by his father and grandfather: one of the chieftains of an isolated rogue state. Instead, he has presented himself to his people and the international community as a legitimate leader of a normal country willing to engage the outside world. The North Korean issuance of postage stamps depicting Kim and Trump standing together at the inter-Korean border reflects Kim’s wish to be seen as an equal negotiating partner with the leader of the most powerful country in the world.

Trump’s courtship
For his part, Trump needs his bromance with Kim to tout his self-proclaimed success in taming one of the world’s most troublesome regimes and preventing a potential nuclear war. He often claims this as something none of his predecessors, including Barack Obama, were able to achieve.

But the reality is that Trump’s bellicose rhetoric caused much of the fear of nuclear war in the first place, and the bond that has been developing since the “handshake of the century” in Singapore more than a year ago has done little to dismantle the North’s nuclear facilities and the nuclear arsenal it has already built.

One more reason Trump started his bromance with Kim is that it comes in tune with his “America First” policy with respect to South Korea. He uses his personal relationship with Kim to justifying his decision to cancel or scale down joint military exercises with South Korea, which he recently called a waste of American taxpayers’ money.

Since the first nuclear crisis in 1993, North Korea has deceived and snubbed the world time and again, and elevated its nuclear and missile capabilities. By now the international community, not least the president of the United States, should not wise to this.

But given what we have witnessed since the landmark meeting between Kim and Trump in Singapore, another one in Hanoi last February and the showy get-together in the demilitarised zone in June, the prospects of Trump coming to his senses do not seem bright. The Kim-Trump bromance may well satisfy the political goals of the two men, even to the detriment of their countries and the wider world.

But if love is blind, it is also fickle. And Trump has shown himself to be disloyal and untrustworthy in both his personal and professional relationships.
Perhaps instead of reason and rational argument, we need to find another way to distract Trump from his newfound love, the dangers of which are clear to everyone but him._____

The writer is the chief editorial writer of The Korea Herald in South Korea.

This article is part of the latest series of the Asian Editors Circle, a weekly commentary by editors from the Asia News Network (ANN), which will be published by members of the regional media group. The ANN is an alliance of
24 news media titles across the region.


Enjoyed this story? Share it.


Asia News Network
About the Author: Asia News Network is a regional media alliance comprising 24 media entities.

Eastern Briefings

All you need to know about Asia


Our Eastern Briefings Newsletter presents curated stories from 22 Asian newspapers from South, Southeast and Northeast Asia.

Sign up and stay updated with the latest news.



By providing us with your email address, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

View Today's Newsletter Here

Diplomacy

China pledges international pandemic aid

 Producers of medical goods urged to meet demand from affected countries. China has pledged to do its best to offer aid to countries and international organisations affected by COVID-19 to help contain the outbreak, and businesses are being urged to boost production of epidemic prevention materials to meet demand from abroad. The announcement was made at a meeting of the leading group of China’s coronavirus response, chaired by Premier Li Keqiang on Thursday. Relevant departments and local authorities must step up co-ordination to closely monitor and analyse the quick spread of the outbreak outside China and roll out more targeted measures to prevent the import and export of infection, the group said in a statement. It is important to further


By China Daily
March 13, 2020

Diplomacy

Back to work in Beijing, with tough measures in place

 Mandatory quarantine for those coming from overseas; some Wuhan businesses may reopen. As most of China attempts to return to normalcy after an extensive lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus, the capital Beijing has been carefully trying to strike a balance between having people restart work while also trying to keep out imported infections, and yesterday ordered a mandatory quarantine for all international arrivals. This comes as the Hubei government announced that some businesses in Wuhan, the outbreak’s epicentre, would gradually be allowed to reopen. On Tuesday, Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Wuhan, his first visit to the city since the outbreak, a sign that the crisis could finally be easing after the government’s toug


By The Straits Times
March 12, 2020

Diplomacy

Xi vows victory over coronavirus in Wuhan

President expresses condolences to families of people who died in epidemic. President Xi Jinping said on Tuesday that prevention and control of the novel coronavirus outbreak remains the top priority and most important task, even amid the recent positive signs. Xi, who is also general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, made the remark during his inspection tour in the outbreak’s epicentre, Wuhan, capital of Hubei province. The spread of the novel coronavirus has been basically curbed in Hubei and Wuhan, Xi said, adding that initial success has been made in stabilising the situation and turning the tide in Hubei and Wuhan. Xi encouraged local residents and front-line worke


By China Daily
March 11, 2020

Diplomacy

China sets example in fighting virus

Epidemic reveals inadequacies in global governance; Beijing says it’s ready to help. China’s response to novel coronavirus pneumonia has set an example for the world in coping with the contagion and offered experience in advancing global public health governance, officials and experts said. The COVID-19 outbreak has also raised the alarm about global public health security and reminded countries that co-operation and co-ordination are needed to deal with challenges as infectious diseases can rapidly escalate into global emergencies, they said. There is a growing positive momentum in epidemic control nationwide thanks to the “comprehensive, thorough and rigorous” measures that China has taken to contain the virus, they said, noting that the daily


By China Daily
March 10, 2020

Diplomacy

More than 800,000 people return Beijing under quarantine

“There’s still a risk of an outbreak of the disease with people coming to Beijing from other cities and countries,” Zhang Tongjun, deputy head of a group for prevention and control work in the city’s residential communities, said during an afternoon conference. About 827,000 people who came back to Beijing from outside the city are still in a 14-day quarantine to see if they had been infected with the novel coronavirus, an official said on Friday. “There’s still a risk of an outbreak of the disease with people coming to Beijing from other cities and countries,” Zhang Tongjun, deputy head of a group for prevention and control work in the city’s residential communities, said during an afternoon conference. Z


By China Daily
March 9, 2020

Diplomacy

South Korea declares third city as special care zone as cases spike

President Moon receives letter of support from North Korean leader as infected cases cross 6,000. South Korea has declared a third city a “special care zone” to boost its capability to fight a spike in coronavirus infections, with cases nationwide soaring beyond 6,000. The death toll stands at 42, mostly the elderly with underlying health conditions, while 88 people have recovered, including 47 discharged yesterday. The care zone announcement came as the presidential Blue House revealed that South Korean President Moon Jae-in received a letter on Wednesday from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un expressing support and comfort to the people battling the coronavirus outbreak, adding that he is confident they will “prevail in this fight wit


By The Straits Times
March 6, 2020