EU cautiously welcomes US-North Korea agreement

Written by Martin Banks on 12 June 2018 in News

MEPs have urged caution about the historic deal agreed between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Photo credit: Press Association

On Tuesday, US President Donald Trump ended his historic summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un by declaring that the US would stop military exercises on the Korean peninsula, in a significant concession to North Korea as the two leaders hailed their first meeting as a critical step towards a “bright future”.

In what was the first meeting between a US President and North Korean leader, Trump and Kim held five hours of talks that concluded with a joint statement, in which the US agreed to provide security guarantees in exchange for Pyongyang agreeing to denuclearisation.

“We are prepared to start a new relationship,” said Trump.

As the leaders signed the statement, Kim said their countries would “leave the past behind” and “the world will see a major change”. Trump later thanked Kim, whom he described as “talented”, for taking the “first bold step for a bright future for his people”.

However, MEPs have said the new accord should be treated with caution.

S&D group Vice-Chair Victor Boştinaru said, “Yet another encouraging step forward has been made. From confrontation and the risk of a nuclear escalation to an historical meeting, the way was long but finally diplomacy and negotiations, backed by the EU, prevailed. Having the US on-board in the diplomatic camp, and trust between the US President and the North Korean leader, are both indispensable elements in the solution of the crisis.

“Nevertheless, we must now build on what has been achieved, and the EU must be engaged in future wider and deeper talks. Key regional actors will also have to be involved in future negotiations. We cannot expect miracles, but diplomacy must continue its work to get to the complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula.

“This is the only solution to the crisis; the only solution to guarantee regional stability and world peace and security, and the only solution to end isolation, poverty and the human rights violations for the people of North Korea.

“We must be very cautious though, enthusiasm must go hand in hand with realism. It's better to advance slowly but with strong and lasting results, rather than faster but with the risk of endangering all the progress made. No doubt that the reconsideration by the US President of the decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal would give much more credibility to the United States in the North Korean negotiations.”

GUE/NGL group leader Gabi Zimmer, a German MEP, said the agreement was reached against a backdrop of the current “confrontation” in relations between the US and EU, a reference to the US tariffs on steel and aluminium.

The MEP, addressing a news conference, said, “Trump is breaking all conventions and doing something we haven’t seen before.

“But, as we have seen, the US can no longer be relied on and that is why it is additionally important for the EU to have its own security structure and move away from this one sided dependency.”

On the deal signed on Tuesday in Singapore, she added,  “Well, we will have to see to what is in the statement and, most important of all wait to see that it is implemented.

“Is there something new in it? Will it mean we move to nuclear disarmament in that region?”

She went on, “In light of what happened at the G7 in Canada last week you have to ask if this agreement will remain valid for very long. Or will Trump undermine the whole thing? The situation is all very fragile. Given what he has done in the past you really have to ask if it is a sustainable. I very much have my doubts about that.”

The summit, which comes 17 months after Trump took office, follows a turbulent period that saw the two nations at one point appear to edge dangerously close to war. The leaders had fired insults at each other last summer, with Trump calling Kim a “madman” and the North Korean leader responding by calling Trump a “dotard”.

The summit comes on the heels of the G7 in Canada, where the US ended up badly isolated from its traditional allies over rising trade tensions that threaten to seriously fracture the decades-old group of industrialised countries. In contrast to his sharp criticism of Justin Trudeau, the Canadian Prime Minister, Trump has over the past few weeks praised Kim, whom he frequently referred to as “rocket man” last year.

Further reaction to the outcome of the summit came from EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini, who said in a statement, “This summit was a crucial and necessary step to build upon the positive developments achieved in inter-Korean relations and on the peninsula so far.”

Elsewhere, the UN nuclear watchdog has welcomed the joint statement and said it was prepared to undertake verification activities.

After Trump and Kim pledged to work towards complete denuclearisation, Director General Yukiya Amano said in a statement, “The International Atomic Energy Agency stands ready to undertake any verification activities in North Korea that it may be requested to conduct by the countries concerned, subject to authorization by the IAEA’s Board of Governors.”

Later on Tuesday, MEPs will debate the impact of Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.

Parliament will debate the repercussions of Trump’s decision for regional security, but also possible ramifications for business deals made between Iran and some EU companies (such as Total or Airbus). They are also expecting to get some more explanations on possible EU measures to mitigate the negative effects of the US decision.

About the author

Martin Banks is a senior reporter for the Parliament Magazine


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