As Tuesday’s landmark summit between the leaders of the United States and North Korea drew to a close, questions remained for US allies in East Asia as to what Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un’s budding relationship will mean for the region.
A document signed by the two men committed the US and North Korea to join efforts to “build a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula” and “to work toward the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
Trump sought to clarify the specifics of that agreement in a news conference after the summit, but in doing so, revealed details that appeared to upend decades of US policy in Asia.
Trump outlined a vision of an Asian geopolitical landscape that included a significantly reduced US military presence, promising to end joint US-South Korean military exercises and eventually withdraw US troops from the Korean Peninsula.
Any suggestion of a potential removal of US power will likely spark concerns both in Tokyo and Seoul, where US troops have been stationed since the 1950s.
“I want to get our soldiers out. I want to bring our soldiers back home,” Trump said. “But that’s not part of the equation right now. I hope it will be eventually.”
Trump also said he planed to halt what he called “war games” on the Korean Peninsula, likely a reference to the joint military exercises between the US and South Korea, touting the cancellation as cost saving measure.
Moon’s all in
Regional powers have publicly pledged their support for the talks, following last year’s heightened tensions and threats of nuclear war.
Other than Trump and Kim, perhaps no other leader had as much riding on the outcome of the talks as South Korean President Moon Jae-in – who said he “didn’t sleep a wink” the night before Tuesday’s summit.
“Seventy years of division and hostility, however, have cast a dark shadow that makes it difficult to believe what is actually taking place before our very eyes,” Moon said following the summit.
“Leaving dark days of war and conflict behind, we will write a new chapter of peace and cooperation. We will be there together with North Korea along the way.”