LONDON -- Former British Ambassador to North Korea John Everard said that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un scored a major victory in his June 12 summit with U.S. President Donald Trump in Singapore by showing to the world that he is on the same level as the American leader and being rewarded with the suspension of U.S.-South Korean joint military drills.
"He (Kim) got much more than he ever hoped for. Not only the prestige of a summit meeting with the president of the United States, but also a suspension of the mutual exercises," Everard said in a recent interview with the Mainichi Shimbun. Everard served as Britain's ambassador in Pyongyang between 2006 and 2008, and was the coordinator for the expert panel of the North Korean Sanctions Committee of the United Nations Security Council.
Everard described the joint statement the two leaders agreed on at the summit as "very vague, very thin on details." He added that the "complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula" pledged in the document was first used in the 1992 framework agreement between Washington and Pyongyang, "so it's rather an old form of words now." If Kim has played President Trump, then the summit was most "unfortunate," he added.
Moreover, Everard said, China, Pyongyang's biggest backer, will oppose future sanctions to be imposed by the United Nations Security Council, where Beijing has veto power to kill any resolutions. "It is clear that China will not support sanctions much further, and without Chinese support, you can write whatever sanctions, declarations you want; they mean nothing," said the former British ambassador. He pointed out that China has already reinstated suspended flights between China and North Korea, and has called for the Security Council to relax its stance toward Pyongyang.
Everard said the U.S. administration underestimated Kim Jong Un. However, people who have met him said he thinks strategically, he understands where he wants to take his country, and he understands also how we wants to move North Korea in that direction, according to the former ambassador.
Kim Jong Un understands the value of collaboration, Everard said. "He is also very good at listening to and weighing advice from clever people ... Kim acknowledges his advisers, smiles at them and every now and then you can see somebody leaning forward to whisper in the leader's ear. That never happened with his father," he said.
Furthermore, Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, who was part of the North Korean summit team in Singapore and whom Everard had known as Pyongyang's ambassador to London, is "very sharp, very well informed, always (has) a flawless command of details and a very accurate memory of what has been said, and an instinctive sense for what to do in a situation. And also -- very important for the North Koreans -- quite a deep understanding of how Western societies work."
Everard said that President Trump made too big a concession to his North Korean counterpart. Previous presidents accepted after a while that you are not going to get a single deal, Everard said, but President Trump "has given Chairman Kim the big prize at the beginning ... if you have to negotiate further steps, you have thrown away an ace, you have weakened your hand."
The former British ambassador thinks a key issue in the coming weeks and months is whether Pyongyang will submit a complete list of its nuclear-related assets. "Clearly, if you are going to denuclearize a country, you need to know what is there, before you can talk about removing it." And it was the failure to provide a complete and plausible list that was one of the main reasons for the collapse of the previous round of talks, according to Everard.
"Nobody, including Americans, knows whether they've identified all of them (nuclear facilities). Intelligence in these matters depends heavily on satellite imagery. Now, a satellite cannot see into a mountain of course," he said.
Everard said he keeps hoping that the complete denuclearization of North Korea is realized, but there are things that we need to watch for to see which way North Korea is going.
(Japanese original by Junichi Yano, Europe General Bureau)