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Saturday, April 20, 2024

‘Cautious optimism’ over North Korea

The leader of the Norwegian Parliament’s foreign relations and defense committee described herself as a “cautious optimist” after historic talks between the US and North Korea on Tuesday. Anniken Huitfeldt’s “caution” is tied mostly to the two men involved.

MP Anniken Huitfeldt of the Labour Party, shown here addressing Parliament last year, heads its standing committee on foreign relations and defense. She called herself “a cautious optimist” on Tuesday regarding the meeting between US President Donald Trump and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-Un. PHOTO: Stortinget

Huitfeldt, who presents Norway’s Labour Party and recently returned from a long-delayed visit to Moscow with the committee she leads, called US Donald Trump “an unpredictable person” who met with “probably the world’s most brutal dictator.” The meeting in Singapore also followed a tumultuous G7 summit during which Trump openly defied the US’ allies and later withdrew from a joint declaration he’d ultimately signed along with the others. Trump went on to accuse the prime minister of Canada, one of the US’ closest allies and neighbours, of making “false statements” and claiming that G7 host Justin Trudeau had been “meek and mild” during the G7, only to “stab him in the back” (according to Trump’s aides) by moving forward with punitive customs duties in retaliation to the US’ own controversial high fees on steel and aluminum. That’s threatening to disrupt trade all over the world, also for Norwegian exports.

When an agreement is signed, Huitfeldt told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) Tuesday morning, it’s expected to be upheld. Trump has himself proven that’s not always the case, but Huitfeldt suggested the world should be able to expect that the agreement signed between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un will be binding.

The actual agreement signed by Trump and Kim declares that they are “have committed to cooperate for the development of new US-DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) relations and for the promotion of peace, prosperity and security of the Korean Peninsulas and of the world.” That’s based on four points including a commitment by North Korea to work towards complete nuclear disarmament on the Korean Peninsula.

Trump called the agreement a “very important document” and claimed his meeting with Kim had gone “better than anyone could have expected.” That should come as a relief for many, including Norwegian companies that have built ships, oil platforms and carried out lots of other business for many years in South Korea, which has long been under threat from the north.

Foreign relations analysts were concerned that the historic meeing in Singapore began with a one-on-one session between Trump and Kim, with only their personal interpreters present and no written account of what was said. Paul Haenle, a former national security adviser for both US presidents George W Bush and Barack Obama, called that “a bad idea” because it would lead to conflict between what was actually said. Only the two interpreters were witnesses, with Haenle adding that he thinks Trump conceded a lot with that approach, without getting much in return.

That initial closed meeting was followed by an “an expanded bilateral meeting and a working lunch,” according to the White House. The expanded meeting included, on the US’ side, only Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and National Security Advisor John Bolton.

Huitfeldt said she thinks the meetings in Singapore will most likely be “the start of a lengthy diplomatic process” but noted that “things can go both ways” because tensions between the US and North Korea (and between North Korea and most of the rest of the world) have been so high. It was only nine months ago that Trump himself ridiculed Kim as “rocketman” at the UN and threatened to meet any nuclear attack by North Korea with “fire and fury like the world has never seen.”

Huitfeldt said there’s still “great tension” over whether the two countries will come to terms on anything. She told NRK that she and many foreign policy makers around the world were worried when Trump himself claimed he’d made no particular preparations before his meeting with Kim and would act on his “feelings.” The leader of Norway’s parliamentary committee in charge of foreign policy and defense said “we are all nervous” and, again, “cautious” because of all the questions that remain. Among them, according to Huitfeldt: “Is Trump wise enough” to deal with “a brutal dictator who has killed family members.” Berglund



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