United States Defense Secretary Jim Mattis had several illuminating statements laid out on the table during a speech today in Singapore, where he was joined by South Korean National Defense Minister Song Young-moo and Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera in a joint meeting according to Business Insider.
The trilateral meeting took place at the 17th International Institute for Strategic Studies – or IISS – Shangri-la Dialogue, which is an annual defense and international security forum. Mattis was a guest of honor alongside his colleagues from the nations of Japan and South Korea, and took the opportunity to address the upcoming, recently-renewed peace summit planned for June 12 in the very same city.
“We can anticipate, at best, a bumpy road to the negotiations,” Mattis said. “In this moment we are steadfastly committed to strengthening even further our defense cooperation as the best means for preserving the peace.”
Defense Minister Song Young-moo echoed this sentiment, reiterating the South Korean position that peace is the most desirable outcome but that it must be tempered with the expectation of denuclearization. Song spoke through an interpreter, and his remarks follow.
“Of course, given North Korea’s past, we must be cautious in approaching this,” Song then added that some of Kim Jong-un’s latest decisions “give us reasons to be positive and one can be cautiously optimistic as we move forward.”
#SecDef Mattis discusses US leadership and #IndoPacific security challenges during the #ShangriLaDialogue June 2. The #ShangriLa Dialogue, held by the @IISS_org, is an inter-governmental security forum attended by defense ministers and delegates from more than 50 nations. #SLD18 pic.twitter.com/o1VK4UKiSE— U.S. Dept of Defense (@DeptofDefense) June 2, 2018
All present seemed to concur in this regard, with the former “Mad Dog” General Mattis elaborating at some length about the absolute requirement for concrete steps towards denuclearization and disarmament before the American government would make any moves whatsoever towards lifting the punitive economic sanctions currently entangling the impoverished nation. In the retired officer’s own words, Kim Jong-un and his leadership would have to show evidence of “provable and irreversible steps towards denuclearization” in order to see the U.N. imposed sanctions removed.
A political game of cat-and-mouse has seemingly played out before the eyes of the public since the first announcement of the potential peace summit earlier this year. North Korea threatened to pull out of the summit after chiding the American and South Korean governments for their annual joint wargames conducted this year under the name Max Thunder. Following this, President Trump officially declined the summit after a North Korean official called Vice President Pence’s comments regarding the situation “ignorant” and “stupid.” However, North Korea signaled regret and a willingness to continue peace talks the day after Trump released the formal letter of withdrawal. Additionally, North Korea committed to a public display of demolition, seemingly destroying their nuclear test site at Punggye-ri, although journalists remain skeptical as to whether or not this was entirely legitimate.
A recent visit by the same North Korean official who had spoken ill of Pence, this time bearing a pleasant disposition and a private letter for the American President, meant that the meeting was back on.
No matter the brinksmanship that has defined the prelude to the peace summit, the actual meeting seems likely to take place next week in Singapore. A historic affair featuring the presence of President Trump, President Moon Jae-in, and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, the world will almost certainly be watching with bated breath and hopeful hearts that the three men and their attaches can figure out a path to a lasting and meaningful peace.