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Asia-Pacific

China, Australia, Iran, Russia - what does Trump-Kim summit mean to them?

media US President Donald Trump and North Korean Workers Party Chairman Kim Jong-Un meet in Singapore Anthony Wallace/Pool via Reuters

US President Donald Trump flew out of Singapore on Tuesday after a historic summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. The summit was watched intensely all over the world and generated mixed feelings.

As the preparations for the meeting were shrouded in secrecy, China's exact role is not clear.

Some analysts say that Beijing played a major part in putting behind-the-scenes pressure on Pyongyang to stop its nuclear and long-range missile tests, while continuing the export of goods banned by UN sanctions.

The discrepancy between how Trump conducts himself with North Korea and how he treats Iran is pretty extraordinary
Trump meets Kim - international reactions 12/06/2018 - by Jan van der Made Listen

Others think that Kim Jung-un managed to sideline Beijing.

“China is worried that control over North Korea escapes her,” says Jean-Philippe Béjà of Sciences Po.

Beijing has difficulty controlloing Kim Jong-un, he argues, despite North Korea's economic dependence on China.

“So in a way, if there is a lowering of tensions, China can come back into the negotiations and can help the lowering of tensions. This is rather good for China. But the end of tensions in Korea won’t have a real strong effect on Sino-American relations."

At a press conference after the summit, Trump indicated he may “bring our troops home” from South Korea if post-summit work in denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula bears fruit.

Australia pleased

And, while Japan may not be happy with a possible departure of US troops from the region, Australia welcomes the development.

“The Korean war only had an armistice and did not have a peace agreement,” says Carlyle Thayer, a professor with the Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra.

“The UN command Korea, headed by an American general, is still there. So countries like Australia contributed troops, maintain a symbolic presence in Korea as one of the allied partners that operates under a UN resolution back in 1953. So for us it is thought that we have to stand down and Australia would be relieved because in any major ground conflict it is not in Australia’s capacity to contribute large numbers of ground troops. The military force is really too small.

“And so if the prospect of conflict in Korea is put on the backburner for the moment means a kind of stand-down and relaxation of that particular posture.”

Iran bemused

While on his way to Singapore, Trump plunged the G7 group of nations into disarray by withdrawing his signature from a joint statement drawn up at the summit in Canada he had just attended.

Earlier he unilaterally pulled the US out of the nuclear deal with Iran.

So the Trump-Kim has raised eyebrows in Tehran.

“The US under Trump is willing to treat North Korea with dignity,” says Mohammad Marandi, an Americas watcher at Tehran University.

“It is willing to pursue meetings, meet each other, Trump praised the North Korean leader, and yet the North Koreans have nuclear weapons and the capacity to deliver those weapons and potentially to strike American targets in the mainland.

“Yet in the case of Iran which has struck a nuclear deal and Iran that has given many concessions in the JCPOA, the nuclear deal, he is behaving irationally and agressively. So the discrepancy between how Trump conducts himself with North Korea and how he treats Iran is pretty extraordinary."

Russia supportive

Meanwhile, Russia, whose President Vladimir Putin was attending the 2018 meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, the Kim-Trump summit didn’t go unnoticed.

“The summit is something that both Russla and China have been supporting and have discussed for a long time,” says Vadim Nikitin, a London-based Russia observer.

“But Moscow sees it as part of a broader context, a broader regional re-orientation where America gradually pulls away and it is replaced by this new pool that consists of Russia and China in leadership roles and America filling in as more of an occasional partner.

“So that is a huge rewriting of the kind of situation that we have seen throughout most of the 20th century’s last 50 years where America was the dominant power in that part of the world and Russia and China had a very flawed relationship.”

Waiting for results

But many analysts share one opinion: Trump has gone back on his word on several occasions. So, as long as no concrete steps are taken, they are suspending judgement.

Nevertheless, China ask the UN for relief of sanctions on North Korea, while Japan has resolved to meet Kim face to face at “some point”.

If that happens, we can say that history was really made in Singapore.

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