Summits are for signing rites, not negotiations

Published March 5, 2019, 12:46 AM

by Charissa Luci-Atienza & Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat

E CARTOON MAR 5, 2019That was a most unusual summit meeting between United States President Donald Trump and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un last  Thursday in Hanoi, Vietnam. It ended abruptly, Trump said, when he decided to “walk” in the face of the North Korean leader’s demand  to  end US  sanctions on his nation.

Summit meetings are not meant for negotiations. The nitty-gritty  of  the various provisions of an agreement is supposed to be handled  by lower officials. The  top  leaders  are supposed to come together for the final act – the ceremonial signing of the agreement for all the world to see.

For the Hanoi summit, Trump flew from halfway  around  the  world  after  touting his special relationship  with Kim and citing the prospects of a brighter  economic future for a nuclear-free North Korea. The White House announced there would be a “Joint  Agreement  Signing  Ceremony” to be followed by a working  lunch for the two leaders.

As for Kim, he took to his special olive-green train from  North Korea’s capital Pyongyang which crossed the Yalu River to China ‘s  Liaonin  province, then proceeded in the  next two and a half days on a  4,000-kilometer trip southwest to the border town of Dong Dang, Vietnam, where a motorcade took him over a  hundred kilometers to  Hanoi.

Trump and Kim then met Thursday morning to start a planned two-day  summit  but  the two leaders  and their delegations left the meeting without even sitting for a planned lunch.  Trump said the main impediment to agreement was Kim’s requirement that the US lift all economic sanctions on North Korea in  exchange  for  the  closure of only one nuclear facility .

 North Korea’s Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, however, said  Kim  only sought “partial” sanctions relief in return for dismantling the North’s main enrichment capabilities for fissile material. Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son  Hui  said that Kim  lost   the  will to engage in  deal-making  as the talks unraveled.   There are  no  plans  for future meetings, she added.

President  Trump  is  planning  to meet with China  President Xi Jinping  sometime soon in his estate in Florida and he is upbeat on  the prospects of an agreement to end the two nations’ trade war. They better  have  lower officials  agree on all possible details of the agreement so that all they will  have to do in Florida  is to sign it and end the trade war.

There is also a continuing effort to have President Duterte visit the US. Last Friday, Secretary of Foreign Affairs Teodoro Locsin Jr.  said  the President may soon accept  the invitation  after our May elections, as he has  a “very strong affection” for Trump who, unlike former President Obama, has refrained from criticizing the Philippine war on drugs.

This  would  be a very good idea.  An agreement, highlighting our long-standing relationship with the US, could  easily  be drawn up by Secretary Locsin  and US Secretary  of  State  Mike Pompeo, and signed   by President Duterte and President Trump as the highlight of a Duterte state visit.