Only in international relations can saber rattling and name calling be turned into handshakes and smiles, and that’s just what happened in Singapore.

“President Donald J. Trump of the United States of America and Chairman Kim Jong Un of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) held a first, historic summit in Singapore on June 12, 2018.,” reads the introductory paragraph of the one-page, 423-word Joint Statement signed at the conclusion of the summit.

“President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un conducted a comprehensive, in-depth and sincere exchange of opinions on the issues related to the establishment of new US-DPRK relations and the building of a lasting and robust peace regime on the Korean Peninsula. President Trump committed to provide security guarantees to the DPRK, and Chairman Kim Jong Un reaffirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”

But what does it mean to us in Hawaii? It is the proverbial glass that is half-full or half-empty? A good first step, or a step backwards to elevating a cruel communist dictator?

United States North Korea diplomacy agreement and American and North Korean diplomatic meeting with pyongyang and washington connecting together as a 3D illustration.

In my opinion, what happened in Singapore was a positive first step that could change the world and here’s why.

Key to the meeting in Singapore was likely Trump’s tough (think “fire and fury”) rhetoric and last-minute cancellation of the summit likely scared Kim or showed him that a threat of a military strike by the U.S. should be taken seriously. Add to this the harsh economic sanctions (with China’s help) that squeezed an already sick economy and made it look like Kim had nothing to lose, lest disaffection of his starving people lead to a coup.

Add further Kim’s pre-summit gestures of sincerity: denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula promised in an April statement with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at Panmunjom, the release of three American prisoners, cessation of any nuclear testing or firing of ICBM rockets for seven months, participation of North Korean athletes in the Winter Olympics in South Korea, and lastly, the recent voluntary shutdown of an underground nuclear test site.

Trump’s biggest concession brought to the table in Singapore other than agreeing to meet with a butcher of his own people, was the language he agreed to in the Summit Agreement that said the U.S. would “provide security guarantees” to the North Koreans. This statement was as elusive as it is serious. Did this signal departure of American troops from South Korea? Was it a reference to the cessation of “war games” or joint military exercises between the U.S. and South Korea, that President Trump mentioned in his press conference before departing Singapore?

For the next six months, we can expect an intense dialogue between NOKO and State Department diplomats. While “assumption is the lowest form of information,” it’s at the mid-level of diplomacy that the details will be revealed of what two the leaders really meant by their remarks in Singapore on June 12.

What does it mean to us in Hawaii? It is the proverbial glass that is half-full or half-empty? A good first step, or a step backwards to elevating a cruel communist dictator?

If the Iranian Agreement is any indication, it is going to take at least two years to get the complete “denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula” in place. In the meantime, we in Hawaii should expect that our congressional delegation will push for a new radar defense system on Oahu, as well as possibly the deployment of a missile defense capability at Barking Sands on Kauai.

Regardless of where one stands on the Summit, future peace in the Pacific will pivot off what has just taken place in Singapore. And if we’re really lucky, Hawaii’s stellar diplomatic institutions of the East-West Center and the Asia Pacific Security Studies Center will be called upon to host one of the many meetings that will take place between the U.S. State Department and their North Korean counterparts.

Bottom line: “Complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization” will take place because the stinging sanctions that will never be lifted until solid progress is reached in the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. This is the blessed assurance this deal is different than any other because we’ll keep our boot on Kim Jong Un’s neck until he and his nation are no longer radioactive. Trump’s sanctions, I believe, will trump Kim Jong Un’s past deceit.

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