June 13, 2018

Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un’s Nuclear Summit and the Bid for History

Featuring Abigail Grace

Source: The New Yorker

Journalist Evan Osnos

In the city of Pyongyang, the sanctum sanctorum of the Workers’ Party of Korea, there are changes afoot that would have vexed Stalin. Repression has not dimmed, but, to indulge the aspirations of the young North Korean élite, a class known to foreigners as “Pyonghattan,” the government has permitted the odd yoga class, squash court, and sushi bar. In Chinese-made taxis, which have proliferated since 2013, the meter starts at a dollar, an exorbitant sum for the average worker in the countryside, but unremarkable for residents of the capital. The drivers pay a fee to the state and keep the profits, in one of many quasi-capitalist accommodations that the government has adopted in recent years to defuse demands for a more modern life.

North Korea is on the cusp of the largest step yet in its budding, fitful engagement with the outside world. Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump’s bid for history, the nuclear summit, is expected to take place on June 12th, at Singapore’s five-star Capella Hotel, on a tiny island overlooking the Singapore Strait. Once home to pirates who ambushed passing ships, the island was known, in Malay, as Pulau Belakang Mati, or the Island Where Death Lurks Behind. In 1972, it was designated a tourism site and, fortunately for the summit, renamed Sentosa, which means peace and tranquillity. The story of how the two nations reached this point, just months after threatening each other with nuclear war, is often framed as a cascade of sudden events, which started on New Year’s Day, when, in a speech, Kim expressed a desire to “alleviate the tensions.” South Korea’s President, Moon Jae-in, seized on the overture, first at the Olympic Games and then in April, when he walked hand in hand with Kim across the fortified border between their countries. By May, the United States and North Korea were preparing, haltingly, for a summit that Trump described as a “get-to-know-you situation.”

Read the Full Ariticle at The New Yorker


  • Abigail Grace

    Former Research Associate, Asia-Pacific Security Program

    Abigail Grace is a former Research Associate in the Asia-Pacific Security Program at the Center for New American Security (CNAS). Her work focused on U.S. strategic competitio...