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A New Day for the Korean Peninsula: Christine Ahn Hails Denuclearization Pledge & New Peace Process

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On Tuesday, President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un sat down for two hours in private, with only their two interpreters, for a historic summit held in Singapore. In a joint statement following the meeting, Trump and Kim pledged to recover the remains of American prisoners of war and those missing in action from the Korean War. The commitment was one of four plans outlined by the leaders after their historic summit, where they promised to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. For more, we’re joined by Christine Ahn, founder and international coordinator of Women Cross DMZ, a global movement of women mobilizing to end the Korean War.

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We go back to President Trump’s news conference this morning.

JOHN ROBERTS: The denuclearization—nuclear weapons and biological weapons and whatnot—is one problem in North Korea. Another huge problem is the horrible record that they have on human rights. Was that discussed at all?


JOHN ROBERTS: Is that something that you will tackle in the future?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Yes, it was discussed. It will be discussed more in the future, human rights. What was also discussed, in great detail, John, was the fact that, you know, we have—and I must have had just countless calls and letters and tweets: “Anything you can do…” They want the remains of their sons back. They want the remains of their fathers and mothers and all of the people that got caught into that really brutal war, which took place, to a large extent, in North Korea. And I asked for it today, and we got it. That was a very last minute. The remains will be coming back. They’re going to start that process immediately.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s President Trump being questioned at the news conference in Singapore. I want to bring in Christine Ahn. She is founder and international coordinator of Women Cross DMZ, a global movement of women mobilizing to end the Korean War.

A big day for you, Christine. Can you respond to what he’s saying here? President Trump—many reporters asked questions about human rights, and then he moved into the question of Korean remains.

CHRISTINE AHN: It was an historic day for ending the Korean War. I mean, this is a statement that I thought was significant, in the sense that it starts by talking about peace and prosperity and security assurances to North Korea, and then he later noted, in the press conference, about the war games. I mean, he used the word “war games” to define the U.S.-South Korea military exercises. And then he goes into denuclearization. And I think that that was a significant shift and showed the pragmatism of President Trump in this moment, that he understood why North Korea was pursuing nuclear weapons as a deterrent against a U.S. first strike. So I think that was a significant shift.

And the last point about the return of family servicemen remains and putting it in the context of human rights, I think, is significant, because when you have an ongoing state of war, not only does it preclude having nations be respecters of human rights, it’s also about an unresolved war that doesn’t allow closure to take place. And that is for at least 5,000 American families, who are waiting for the remains of their fathers. You know, I think about my friend Rick Downes, who is the executive director of Coalition of Families of American POW/MIA families from the Korean War. And he talks about how he was on a plane that landed over into Pyongyang and that, you know, that was the closest he had ever been to his father since he was 3 years old. And so, this is about bringing it about families, and so there are thousands of American families that still have yet to have closure. But there are millions of Korean families that still have to have some kind of reconciliation and healing. And the first step to ending the Korean War takes us in that direction.

I think, you know, this was the first time I felt like I could listen at length to what Donald Trump was saying. It was as if he had a beating heart. And the way in which he has been talking about the Korean War and that this is a 7-decade war that has languished on for far too long, I think, is a significant step. And we have been hearing so much in the media about how this is a thin and insubstantial document. And, you know, the truth is, this is the first time that a U.S. president has sat down, shook hands, we saw the DPRK and American flag side by side. I mean, this is unprecedented. And I think it’s a new day for the Korean Peninsula.

But that’s why I’m here in Washington, D.C., because we know that, contrary to the perception that North Korea has been the one responsible for the derailment of the implementation of past agreements, we know that past presidents, whether it was Clinton or Bush, not only faced an opposition party that didn’t want to see the implementation of the Agreed Framework—Newt Gingrich and the Republican Party—but also President Bush faced opposition within his own administration, the hard-liners that didn’t want to see through the agreement during the six-party talks. So, I think it’s really important. For now, this is—a peace process has begun. It’s now the job of those of us, civil society, especially women’s groups, to ensure that our positions, our points and that we are included in this peace process.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Christine, I wanted to ask you also about the role of Kim Jong-un, because, obviously, President Trump has gotten all the attention, but this is a startling turnabout for a leader who was largely isolated in the rest of the world and, just in a few short months, not only sent a delegation to the Winter Olympics to begin the thaw, but then also had meetings, two meetings, with the president of China, Xi Jinping, as well as the April 27th meeting with Moon Jae-in. And the role of Kim Jong-un in this diplomatic turnaround?

CHRISTINE AHN: Well, I think that this has been part of the plan, the North Korean plan, for several years. And, you know, we know that their policy of the byungjin line, which is a dual track of trying to achieve a nuclear deterrent to defend the nation against a U.S. first strike—and we know that those provocative war drills have been very much part of that North Korean mentality of being under siege—and then the second is about economic development.

And so, you know, when they—the New Year’s address that Kim Jong-un made this year said, you know, “We’ve completed this, and now we want to move forward,” and—you know, when a new administration was going to come into power in South Korea. And thankfully, thanks to the Candlelight Revolution, that was even, you know, expedited, and Moon Jae-in came into power. And that’s obviously a huge reason why we are even at this moment, is because of the incredible diplomacy of Moon Jae-in. But, you know, Kim Jong-un, as one of the leading Russian scholars on North Korea has said, he is the most—one of the most pro-market North Korean leaders ever. And we know that he wants to make significant changes for the well-being of the North Korean people. And, obviously, ending the hostile relations with the United States, the world’s superpower, is going to be a huge obstacle that will no longer be in place, in terms of the sanctions, in terms of the isolation politically, economically, and now with progress towards ending the military hostility between the two countries.

But, I mean, a point I really want to make is, you know, with this thing about the family remains, I mean, that is going to take enormous coordination. And so I think one of the key things that could happen is, to facilitate that process, there could be a diplomatic mission, a U.S. Embassy, opened in Pyongyang. I think that would be a huge and an important and meaningful first step to achieve all the other aims of that statement.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to take a break, then come back to this discussion. We’ll also be joined by University of Chicago professor Bruce Cumings and Congressmember Ro Khanna, who’s taking on his own party when it comes to, well, if not their opposition, their very lukewarm support of this summit. Stay with us.

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