While the details of the meeting between the two leaders are finalized, Russia invited the North Korean president to a forum in September. However, what role does Latin America play in this situation?
U.S. President Donald Trump's meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is ready for June 12 at 9 a.m. in Singapore. The historic meeting between the two leaders will take place at Capella Hotel, a luxurious complex of 12 hectares of green and leafy surface, located on Sentosa Island. The meeting between the two presidents will be the first between leaders of both countries after almost 70 years of a confrontation that began with the Korean War (1950-1953), and 25 years of failed negotiations and tensions on account of the North Korean atomic program.
Despite the difficulties that have arisen since the announcement of the meeting and the cancellation by Donald Trump on May 24, the meeting was able to materialize on the scheduled date. Even the visit of North Korea's number two, Kim Yong Chol, to the White House, increased the chances of a fruitful meeting on June 12.
The U.S. president at a press conference, after receiving Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe last week, added that "no agreement will be signed with North Korea during this first summit", but he said that Washington and Pyongyang will start a new relationship after the meeting. Trump also said that he would invite Kim to the United States if the summit turns out well, and that hopes to normalize the links with North Korea in the future by reducing the sanctions, all in the framework of denuclearization of the peninsula.
Russia "flirts" with Kim Jong-un
Russia's Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, visited Pyongyang last week and took the opportunity to hand the North Korean leader an invitation by President Vladimir Putin to visit Russia during its Eastern Economic Forum, which is held every year in Vladivostok. This forum is Russia's opportunity to approach the Asia-Pacific countries and create strong trade ties.
It should be noted that the ties between the United States and Russia have been violated due to the recent attacks orchestrated by the U.S. against Syria, an ally of Russia. However, the United States announced on June 8 that it would be willing to boost Russia's re-entry into the G7, by demonstrating that it fights for global interests and that it is one of the largest economies. Russia left the group by annexing Crimea four years ago.
North Korea is "trendy"
The North Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported on Sunday, June 3, that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is interested in visiting North Korea and meeting with Kim. If the Syrian president's visit to Pyongyang is materialized, it would be the first time that Kim Jong-un receives a president in his country. The announcement is given days before the summit with Donald Trump, and after receiving the invitation from Putin.
Duyeon Kim, from the Korean Peninsula Future Forum, a "think tank" in Seoul, stated that "North Korea is entering a new sphere of diplomacy: the rapprochement with the world, although it could be done with other countries, China, the United States, and Russia are its main objectives. Syria, although it can be misunderstood, is also an approach to the world."
North Korea and Latin America
Despite its extreme isolationism, North Korea has more trade connections with Latin America than one might suppose. In 2015, the nation sold road signs to Paraguay, shaving razors to Colombia, fish to Ecuador and tires to Bolivia; Chilean wine and Brazilian skins, to mention just a few unusual lines in the trade that exists between North Korea and Latin America.
North Korea condemned, in harsh terms, the U.S. request in September 2017 by suggesting that Latin America should cut diplomatic and trade ties with Pyongyang. A spokesman for the North Korean foreign ministry told to the Central News Agency of North Korea that such a request constitutes interference in the internal affairs of other countries, as well as a violation of the international law.
Given the current circumstances, Scott Snyder, an expert on North Korea issues of the Council of Foreign Relations based in New York, said that, despite the crises between the United States, Russia, China and any other player, "North Korea is seeking to get close with the world, and it is no possible to close the door, on the contrary, including it in the world can help change the decisions of the regime. Latin America can serve as a bridge for North Korea to get involved in today's international relations since there are commercial links and diplomatically they have not had more confrontation."
For Snyder, although one might think of a polarization like that experienced in the Cold War when the United States and Russia were talking with North Korea, the opportunity should be taken to close gaps of difference and seek a common factor of unity. Latin America has shown that it can establish relations with the entire planet, without being part of the ideological division.
Latin American Post | Carlos Eduardo Gómez Avella
Translated from "El histórico encuentro entre Trump y Kim: llega la hora cero"