Has the Trump-Kim Summit Opened the Road to Peace in East Asia?


End the imperialist sanctions against North Korea! Drive the U.S. Military out of the Korean Peninsula! No to the Stalinist-Capitalist Regime of Kim Jong-un!


Statement of the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT), 14.06.2018, www.thecommunists.net




1.             The Singapore summit of U.S. President Donald Trump and North Koreas’ head of state Kim Jong-un has been an extraordinarily hyped event in Western and Korean media. Several thousand journalists assembled to report about the meeting of “the two (!) dictators” (as a host of the ultra-conservative U.S. Fox News remarked and later apologized for this). The summit resulted in a joint statement which announced that both sides “commit to establish new U.S.-DPRK relations”, that they “will join their efforts to build a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula, that “the DPRK commits to work towards complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula”, and that both sides “commit to recovering POW/MIA remains” (from the Korean War in 1950-53). (Trump and Kim's joint statement, June 12, 2018, Reuters, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-northkorea-usa-agreement-text/trump-and-kims-joint-statement-idUSKBN1J80IU) Furthermore, Trump announced in a press conference after the summit that the U.S. would halt its “tremendously expensive” annual war games on the peninsula, which he said were “provocative” for North Korea. Trump also said that North Korea had agreed to destroy a missile-engine test site (which has not been confirmed by North Korea until now). North Korea’s official news agency KCNA announced that the U.S. President had agreed to lift sanctions against the North (which has not been confirmed by the U.S. until now). Finally, Trump and Kim invited each other to visit the United States and North Korea, respectively, and both accepted the invitation.


2.             Unsurprisingly, the outcome of the summit was hailed as a “tremendous success” both by Trump and his hardened right-wing supporters as well as by North Korea’s state media. KCNA described the summit as the “meeting of the century” which “epoch-making” talks would bring an end to “extreme, hostile relations” between the countries. Trump was also full of praise – in particular of himself and his expertise in “deal making”. He said the meeting with Kim went "better than anybody could have expected", that he and Kim have developed "a very special bond" and that he learned that Kim is a "talented man" who "loves his country very much". The White House also published a bizarre four minute video trailer about the summit which, as a mixture of Hollywood and simple propaganda techniques, praised Trump and Kim as “two men, two leaders, one destiny”! (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QVVFARIR0Tc)


3.             The reaction from the rest of the world has been more sober. Many note with relief that the U.S. has stepped back from its policy of aggressive warmongering against North Korea, at least for now. This is particularly the case for China, Russia and South Korea which have no interest in military tensions in their close proximity. However, many politicians and experts agree that the joint statement is very algebraic, without specific measures and without a timetable. It is open for different interpretations. Take for example the phrase “denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula”. While the U.S. Administration understand this as a unilateral “complete, verifiable, irreversible disarmament” of Pyongyang, North Korea understand this rather as including the end of the U.S. “nuclear umbrella” over South Korea and Japan and a removal of U.S. troops from South Korea. Numerous prominent U.S. politicians both from the Republican as well as the Democrat Party expressed caution and fear that Trump might make too many concessions. Japan, the most important ally of the US in Asia, has expressed its reservations about the suspension of the annual war games.


4.             Naturally, it is not possible to predict the exact nature of further negotiations between the U.S. and North Korea. What can be said for now is that Kim Jong-un certainly benefits in the short term more from the summit than the old man with the orange hair. Given the international isolation of the regime and given the fact that the country is one of the poorest in the world, it has been already an achievement to receive diplomatic recognition from the biggest global power and arch-enemy No.1. Furthermore the regime had not to give any other concession than repeating the traditional algebraic formula “to work towards complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula”. Trump’s announcement to suspend the annual war games is also a plus on the side of Pyongyang.


5.             Naturally, each of these results can be revoked at any time – particularly if your counterpart goes by the name Donald Trump. However, a renewed policy of militarist aggression by U.S. imperialism against North Korea would now have to be paid by higher political costs than before. Furthermore, and much more important for Pyongyang, it will be now easier for North Korea to overcome its relative international isolation and to revitalize its political and economic relations with other countries. As we reported somewhere else, the regime has already made clear that modernizing its economy and expanding its trade and foreign investments with South Korea, China and Russia is a top priority. South Korea’s monopoly capitalists, organized in the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry, already stated hours after the summit ended that they “fully prepare for a new age of economic cooperation between North and South Korea.


6.             As the summit will result in a reduction of the military tensions on the Korean Peninsula, at least in the short term, we can say that China is the second winner of this event. China’s relationship with North Korea has never been without frictions. While the country on the Korean Peninsula is certainly the weaker part in the relationship, it would be wrong to view Pyongyang simply as a subordinated lackey of Beijing. China’s ruling class opposes the desire of the Kim regime to build an arsenal of nuclear weapons as it would make Pyongyang more independent. Beijing rather wants the country as a stable but subordinated puffer state at its eastern borders. Neither does it want to give US imperialism an additional pretext for warmongering in its close proximity. For all these reasons Beijing tactically supported the UN sanctions against North Korea.


7.             Nevertheless, North Korea has been and remains strategically an ally of Chinese imperialism. In fact, China’s alliance with the regime in Pyongyang, reinforced by the two meetings of Kim Jong-un with President Xi Jinping since March, gave North Korea sufficient diplomatic strength in order to withstand Washington’s pressure. In other word, we think that the Singapore summit is another example confirming the RCIT’s analysis of the world political situation. It demonstrates once more China’s rise as an imperialist Great Power and, at the same time, the decline of US imperialism.


8.             Why did U.S. President Trump agree to hold the summit and to sign its final communiqué (after he temporarily cancelled the summit on 24 May)? The main reason is, in our opinion, to be found in the increasing political weakness and isolation of the Trump Administration both domestically as well as on the international stage. Domestically Trump is despised by the majority of the working people as well as of the middle class and the bourgeoisie. In addition, he faces the Special Counsel investigation by former FBI Director Robert Mueller. This investigation is proceeding despite all maneuvers of Trump and seems to bring to light numerous highly embarrassing and criminal activities of the U.S. President and his inner circle. On the field of foreign policy, the Trump Administration basically ruptures relations not only with its most important imperialist rivals, China and Russia, but also with its Western European allies and even with Canada and Mexico. The U.S. President is threatening trade war against nearly everyone. Outside of the small circles of fanatical Zionists and cronies of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince bin Salman, very few do not despise the dump geriatric in the White House. Under these circumstances, Trump desperately needs some kind of political success. Proclaiming diplomatic success on the Korean Peninsula and having a big photo op in Singapore has been one of the very few options.


9.             What are the political consequences of the summit? Has it opened the road to peace in East Asia? The answer to this is simply “No”. Of course, in the short term it is likely that the massive military tensions, which dominated the Korean Peninsula some months ago, will be reduced. As we said before, the Trump Administration is desperately looking for some kind of political success. This is even more so as the 2018 midterm elections for the Senate and House will take place on 6 November, for which the primaries have already begun. If the Republicans lose their majority in both Houses, life will become even more difficult for the Trump Administration. Another factor shaping Washington’s foreign policy towards Pyongyang is the acceleration of the US warmongering against Iran. The threat of another big war in the Middle East limits Washington’s desire to risk simultaneously a second war in East Asia.


10.          However, the fundamental factors which have provoked the political and military crisis on the Korean Peninsula have not disappeared and cannot disappear. These factors are first and foremost the accelerating rivalry between the two biggest imperialist Great Powers, US and China, with Russia and Japan also playing a role. We have already seen in the past weeks an acceleration of tensions between Washington and Beijing both about trade as well as about control of the South China Sea. As soon as the sanction regime against North Korea softens, Pyongyang will intensify its foreign trade relations and it is most likely that it will be rather Beijing, Seoul and Moscow which will benefit from this and not Washington.


11.          Other factors influencing the developments on the Korean Peninsula are:


* The interest of South Korea’s monopoly bourgeoisie to get better access to the North Korean labor and consumer market;


* The interest of imperialist Russia to intensify its economic relations with both Korean states and not to lose out in terms of regional influence in East Asia.


12.          In conclusion, we think that in the short term the relations between the US and North Korea will be strongly influenced by Trump’s narrow domestic political calculations, i.e. his desperate need for some kind of political success. In the longer run, we think that the imperialist rivalry between the U.S. and China will the central axis determining the developments on the Korean Peninsula. Given the decline of capitalism and the general aggravation of global tensions between the Great Powers, the rivalry between Washington and Beijing will inevitable accelerate. Therefore, we consider a peaceful development for the Korean Peninsula as impossible.


13.          Another important consequence of the summit could be an acceleration of the process of capitalist restoration in North Korea. As the RCIT has elaborated somewhere else, North Korea is currently experiencing a thoroughly reactionary social transformation. It is a former Stalinist workers state with a bureaucratic dictatorship, which has undergone in the past years a process of capitalist restoration transforming the country into a capitalist semi-colony. The ruling elite – led by a kind of monarchic rule of the Kim family dynasty since its foundation – has transformed into a Stalinist-Capitalist ruling class. Under such conditions, it is crucial for the regime to revitalize its economy by intensifying foreign trade and investment so that it can consolidate the capitalist production relations and increase the surplus value production.


14.          The RCIT repeats its categorical rejection of the imperialists’ demand to denuclearize North Korea. We have always pointed out that such a demand is nothing but reactionary hypocrisy. According to the 2017 issue of the SIPRI Yearbook, the U.S. is – together with Russia – the world's biggest nuclear power with a war head inventory of 6,800. North Korea possesses, at maximum, 10-20 war heads! Furthermore, it is the U.S. and not North Korea which is regularly waging wars in other countries – most recently in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. Finally, while North Korea is no threat to the US, tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers and modern weapon system are stationed on the Korean Peninsula. We therefore strongly defend the right of North Korea to possess nuclear weapons, irrespective of our political opposition to its regime. Such weapons are a means to defend itself against the aggression of imperialist powers. The fact, that Washington has been forced to start such negotiations with the Kim regime is a result of the latter possession of such weapons. Would Iran also have nuclear weapons, US and Israeli imperialism might be more careful in their policy of warmongering.


15.          Faced with these developments, the RCIT confirms its revolutionary program for the Korean Peninsula.


* End the imperialist sanctions against North Korea now!


* Dissolution of the U.S. military bases in South Korea and withdrawal of 28,500 US soldiers stationed there! No deployment of the THAAD missile defense system in South Korea!


* For demonstrations and strikes against all forms of imperialist aggression!


* Defend the right of North Korea to possess nuclear weapons!


* In any military conflict between the US, Japan or South Korea on one side and North Korea on the other: Defeat the imperialist forces and their allies and defend North Korea!


* No to Chinese and Russian imperialism!


* For class struggle against exploitation and oppression in both Koreas! Down with the imperialist ruling class in South Korea! Down with the Stalinist-Capitalist ruling class in North Korea!


* For the revolutionary unification of the Korean peninsula! For a Korean Workers’ and Peasant Republic!


* Build a Revolutionary Workers Party as part of a Revolutionary World Party! Unite the Korean revolutionaries now on the basis of a Marxist program! Join the RCIT!




International Secretariat of the RCIT




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See also the RCIT’s past documents on the Korean Peninsula:


Michael Pröbsting: Again on Capitalist Restoration in North Korea, 12 June 2018, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/asia/again-on-capitalist-restoration-in-north-korea/


Michael Pröbsting: World Perspectives 2018: A World Pregnant with Wars and Popular Uprisings. Theses on the World Situation, the Perspectives for Class Struggle and the Tasks of Revolutionaries, RCIT Books, Vienna 2018, Chapter VI, pp. 95-105, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/world-perspectives-2018/


RCIT: North Korea: Stop the American Warmongers! Defend North Korea against the Madman of US Imperialism! Down with the imperialist sanctions against North Korea! No political support for the Stalinist Kim Regime! 11 August 2017, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/asia/stop-usmadman-threatening-north-korea/


RCIT: US Sanctions against Russia, Iran, and North Korea are an Economic Declaration of War, 30 July 2017, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/north-america/ussanctions-vs-russia-iran-north-korea/


RCIT: North Korea: Stop the War Mongering of US Imperialism! 4 April 2017, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/asia/us-aggression-vs-north-korea/


RCIT: New Imperialist Threats in East Asia: Hands off North Korea! 12.3.2013, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/asia/defend-north-korea/


RCIT: No War against North Korea! Call for Protests on the Day when a War starts! 6.4.2013, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/asia/no-war-against-north-korea/


Michael Pröbsting: US Aggression against North Korea: The CWI’s “Socialist” Pacifism. Hippie Day-Dreaming is an Impotent Tool in the Struggle against Imperialist War! Authentic Socialists say: Defend North Korea! Defeat US Imperialism! 12.09.2017, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/asia/cwi-and-north-korea/


On the RCIT’s analysis of China as an imperialist power see the literature mentioned in the special sub-section on our website: https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/china-russia-as-imperialist-powers/