Bruce Cumings hopes Trump’s lack of ties to Washington establishment offers solution for Korean Peninsula

Posted on : 2018-06-17 12:47 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
Professor of contemporary Korean history disagrees with critics of North Korea-US summit
Professor Bruce Cumings of the University of Chicago
Professor Bruce Cumings of the University of Chicago

Bruce Cumings, a professor at the University of Chicago and a distinguished scholar of contemporary Korean history, hopes that US President Donald Trump’s distance from the establishment in Washington could bring a solution to issues on the Korean Peninsula.

In an interview with American weekly progressive journal The Nation that was published on June 14, Cumings, the well-known author of “Origins of the Korean War,” disagreed with those who think that the US made major concessions in its summit with North Korean on June 12 – such as suspending its joint military exercises with South Korea – without getting anything in return.

“The US has refused to talk to North Korean leaders since 1945,” Cumings said. “The point of this first meeting between Trump and Kim was to begin a process in which North Korea would no longer be a nuclear weapons state.”

Responding to Trump’s announcement that the US would suspend its military exercises with South Korea, Cumings noted that “the US did that back in 1994. Bill Clinton did that as a concession to the North. [. . .] The Pentagon probably won’t be too happy about not doing these games, but it’s a small concession.”

As for Trump’s characterization of the war games as “provocative,” Cumings said that Trump is right: “In his own madness, he brings innocent eyes to the Korean situation.”

Pointing out that the exercises practice “how to decapitate the North Korean regime” and that B-52s dropped dummy nuclear bombs during the exercises under Obama, Cumings said, “These are very threatening to North Korea, [. . .] but I’ve never heard a president say they’re provocative.”

“Trump’s utter lack of experience and his lack of any ties to the Washington foreign policy establishment give him a certain freedom to do something like this,” Cumings added.

“There’s a silver lining in having Trump as president: he is untethered to anybody, especially the Washington establishment, and in a curious way he may be able to make a lot of progress.”

Cumings said that North Korea would want a peace treaty and economic support in exchange for its denuclearization. “North Korea is probably looking for something like a billion or two billion [dollars] a year in aid in return for giving up their nukes and their missiles,” he said, describing this as “a drop in the bucket.”

As for North Korea’s model of economic development, Cumings points to Vietnam and China, which he described as “two states that have grown very rapidly using market principles while having heavy state involvement and ultimate power in the hands of the Communist Party.”

“I think that model is very influential in North Korea,” Cumings argued.

By Hwang Joon-bum, staff reporter

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