BY SHASHI MALLA
Peace in the Korean Peninsula ?
At the ‘historic’ US-North Korea Summit in Singapore, US President Donald Trump and North Korean Chairman Kim Jong-un signed a joint statement/document, enumerating what the two parties have achieved until now and what they hope to accomplish in the future. This ‘Singapore Deal’ will be analysed in detail in the next issue of this paper.
Both parties have been very effusive about the bilateral relationship upto now, but only time will tell how successful the negotiations have been. For all intents and purposes, ‘the cart before the horse’ diplomacy has been a huge success for the North Korean dictator. He has gained enormously, whereas Trump has given too much for too little. Kim has indeed emerged as the ‘supreme dealmaker’ and accomplished statesman on the world stage. His regime has now been legitimized and North Korea recognized as a de facto nuclear power.
The best part for the region in particular, and the world in general is the indubitable fact that Trump can no longer beat his war drums and threaten ‘Fire and Fury’. Denuclearization/Disarmament of the Korean Peninsula can now (re)start in earnest from square one.
Trump Causes Havoc at G -7 Summit
The G-7 summit held in La Malbaie, Quebec province Canada last weekend was of the group of major industrial nations – Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Japan and Germany. The annual summit brings together the grouping representing more than 60 percent of global economic net worth among them. Russia was originally also a member of the group – the G-8 – but was suspended after its annexation of the Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. The meeting started under inauspicious signs and ended acrimoniously – thanks to the Disrupter-in-Chief Trump.
In the joint communiqué, the group of seven agreed on the need for “free, fair, and mutually beneficial trade” and the importance of fighting protectionism. They said: “We strive to reduce tariff barriers, non-tariff barriers and subsidies”. The joint communiqué, advocating a “rules-based trading system”, was reached despite tension over US tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the host of the summit, vowed to press ahead with retaliatory tariffs as of July 1. Speaking at a press conference, he described as “insulting” Trump’s decision to invoke ‘national security concerns’ to justify steel and aluminum tariffs. “It would be with regret but it would be with absolute clarity and firmness that we move forward with retaliatory measures on 1 July.” Trudeau said. “Canadians are polite and reasonable but we will also not be pushed around.”
US President Trump endorsed the joint communiqué issued at the end of the G-7 summit, but later retracted, accusing Canada of “dishonesty”. Tweeting en route to his next summit with Kim Jong-un of North Korea in Singapore, Trump said he has instructed US officials “not to endorse the communiqué as we look at tariffs on automobiles.” He said the move was based on Trudeau’s “false statements at his news conference and the fact that Canada is charging massive tariffs to our US farmers, workers and companies.” Trump had earlier signed the joint statement despite the trade dispute. He also tweeted defiantly about not allowing “other countries to impose massive tariffs”.
Until some time back, the relationship between Trump and Trudeau was indeed cordial. Despite differences over trade, especially the major renegotiation of the trilateral North American Free Trade Association (NAFTA, including Mexico also), the two men had positive things to say about each other. But, not anymore. Trump later tweeted ‘there was a special place in hell for Justine’ (Trudeau)[!]
World in Disarray & the West in Crisis
At the G-7 summit in Canada, the participants also agreed on certain outstanding issues:
* Russia. There was a joint demand that Moscow “cease with its destabilizing behavior”. The leaders called on Moscow to stop with its attempts to “undermine democracy” and to withdraw its support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
* Iran. The members pledged to “permanently” ensure Tehran’s nuclear programme remains peaceful. The group was committed to ensuring Iran would “never seek, develop, or acquire a nuclear weapon”.
* Climate Change. The group ‘agreed to disagree’. The US refused to sign a pledge to
implement the Paris climate change accord after Trump announced the US was pulling out of the agreement last June in the hope of a new “fair” deal.
Trump claimed in Quebec that his relationship with other Western leaders were perfect. However, the truth is the transatlantic alliance has never been so estranged — a near schism. He hit back angrily at suggestions that he had thrown the West into turmoil at the G-7 summit, denouncing it in his trademark style as “fake news”. Yet he himself showed up late and left early, demonstrating clearly his disdain for the meeting and the various crucial agendas. In a clear departure from the Western consensus, he insisted that the summit would have been more meaningful if Russia was again included in the grouping.
Trump contended that the level of relationship with the other G-7 leaders was a complete 10, but this 10-out-of-10 assessment was generally rejected. One senior European diplomat sarcastically rebutted: “He must mean there are 10 things on which we totally disagree”. Even before the summit, European leaders had openly conceded that there were fundamental disagreements with Trump, leading some observers to label the summit the G 6 + 1. French President Emmanuel Macron, who had a difficult call with Trump before the meeting, was most blunt: “The American President may not mind being isolated, but neither do we mind signing a 6 country agreement if need be. Because these 6 countries represent values, they represent an economic market which has the weight of history behind it and which is now a true international force.”
Trudeau and Trump also had an acrimonious exchange over the phone over his decision to impose steel and aluminum tariffs on US allies. Before leaving for Quebec, Trump accused the European Union and Canada of treating the US “unfairly”.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has made her angst with Trump’s policies [or lack of them] abundantly clear. She has argued pointedly that Germany may no longer be able to rely on its US ally.
Trump did not have much support back home. Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona rebutted Trump’s position by tweeting: “To our allies: bipartisan majorities of Americans remain pro-free trade, pro-globalization & supportive of alliances based on 70 years of shared values. Americans stand with you, even if our president doesn’t.”
The Democratic opposition was even more scathing. The minority leaders in Congress, Representative Nancy Pelosi and Senator Charles E. Schumer tweeted: “Are we executing
Putin’s diplomatic and national security strategy or AMERICA’S diplomatic and national security strategy? After the last few days, it’s hard to tell.”
After sowing chaos in the Western alliance and weakening his negotiating hand, the only thing ahead of the Trump-Kim summit was its unpredictability.
Qatar Still Vibrant after One-Year Blockade by Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain & Egypt
The one-year land-, sea- and air-blockade by Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt on Qatar has not deterred the small but vibrant nation. It is not only business as usual in this Arab [Persian] Gulf nation, but the blockade has taught it to be self-sufficient in the face of adversity. It has held its own in the international community. For Nepal, Qatar is most important since more than 400,000 Nepalese migrant workers there make a huge economic and social contribution to Nepal’s political economy.
The blockade is against the letter and spirit of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) of which three of the blockading countries (unlike Egypt) are members. It is also against all tenets of International Law and a direct violation of the Charter of the United Nations, of which all the involved countries are members. Unfortunately, the international community has not seen fit to censure the blockading countries for their rampant violation of the principles governing the rules-based international system. This has been the case because two of the main protagonists — Saudi Arabia and Egypt — are major players in the ongoing Middle East conflict(s), and to a lesser extent in international relations generally.
The major bone(s) of contention have been the extraordinary success generated by Qatar in two areas which were previously dominated by the political West. The first is in the field of international aviation. The national airlines — “Qatar Airways” — has since its inception gone from success to eminent success, offering outstanding service innovations, and is today one of the leading airlines in the world. Second, in the area of international media “Al Jazeera” has today captured the hearts and minds of a discerning and media-savvy cosmopolitan audience. Its news presentation, features and productions are the equal of the other — both Western — media houses BBC and CNN. The latter has attempted to counter Al Jazeera through its ‘Middle Eastern hub’ in Abu Dhabi, but to no avail since its remains largely parochial, with no real competition to its multicultural and sophisticated proximate associate!
Qatar is today a vibrant and energetic member of the international community. It has raised itself from a least developed to a developing nation and beyond to an emerging economy and is playing a progressive role in advancing other countries. It is indeed a beacon of hope above all for other underdeveloped and regressive Arab nations.