The image that immediately popped to mind when the historic deal was being signed between US and North Korea is the evocative recorded footage of the North Korean Mig fighting the US Sabre jet over the Yalu River during the Korean War, in 1950.
Just like that encounter, the first jet vs. jet battle, the meeting in Singapore, was between two stalwarts of two different camps, no one willing to bow down to the other.
Well, the agreement that North Korea would opt for complete denuclearisation, is the major issue here.
Wait a second, what if Kim already possesses some nukes, concealed cleverly, only to be revealed when required?
Honestly speaking, if that happens and, one fine day, facing too much pressure from the West, an incensed Kim decides to show the hidden card, many won’t be surprised.
Conspiracy theories aside, the point is, what we see may not be what the reality actually holds.
Kim may or may not have nuclear weapons, but an agreement has been signed, there has been talk of a positive move forward though for some odd reason, it appears that the main motive is to open up North Korea, a reclusive state for so long, to business, especially, US business.
The jet to jet meeting sees no casualties
The MIGs facing sabre jest over Korea weren’t hesitating to press the machine gun button though this time the two leaders, capturing the formidable ferocity of the earlier jet fighters in their respective personalities, decided to go for a handshake and some measured smiles.
International news media covering the event are repeatedly saying that the perfectly choreographed meeting, where every step was possibly decided beforehand, may have some moments when humans just couldn’t remain robotic.
Hence, there is talk of closely scrutinising body language by experts plus the out of schedule episodes, no matter however trivial.
Frankly put, it does not take an expert to get a sense that there was an air of imperceptible frostiness in the meet. The smiles often seemed forced.
Come on, both of them threatened to obliterate each other not even a year ago!
Yet on the other hand, when spontaneity took over, Trump reportedly took Kim to give a glimpse of ‘The Beast’— the US president’s gadget laden car.
So, how will behaviour experts interpret this?
Well, from the looks of the whole meeting, starting from the prolonged handshake to the side by side walks and the occasional smiles plus Trump’s regular pat on the back, it seems that the US president is a little too eager to make this a success.
Lest we forget, it was Trump, who, just a few days ago, had cancelled this meeting. Then, it was on again.
Miracles or strategic planning?
The G-7 is faded from memory
Now let’s just go back a few days; Trump almost isolated in Canada. An image that struck the world: The US president on one side, sitting with an impassive buy hardened face with all the other leaders, appearing to be led by Angela Merkel, looking down at him with grave expressions.
This was not a premeditated image. A caption wasn’t needed either. At the G-7, trade tariffs imposed by US irked all and it seemed that this rancour would linger throughout the month.
So, come to the present: where is the G-7 acrimony and the bitter words? Forgotten! Completely!
It’s Trump’s show with Kim by the side – the MIG and the Sabre are ruling!
The world of news has a very heartless quality; it tends to brush aside an issue when something more significant comes up.
Today, the G-7 is past; Trump’s trade tariffs, his intransigence towards fellow developed nation leaders, inconsequential.
If the world saw an obdurate, often dour Trump, in Canada, it’s witnessing a compassionate face in Asia – the pat on the back, meaning, yes, we’ve got it going!
From another angle, the pat is also a method of saying: come, let me lead you to it.
Trump did the same thing with Macron a month earlier. Alpha males tend to do that; subtle moves of friendliness which actually translates into a magnanimous guardianship role.
How many noticed, at one point Kim patted back! Young still, but the chutzpah is there!
Is trade coming next?
Let’s be blunt: there’s something more important than nuclear weapons. It’s trade! Common sense states that even if a country has nuclear warfare capability, its actual military role is nil.
Nukes are needed to ensure no one exploits you in any way!
Despite the fiery rhetoric from both sides and talks about going into full- fledged war, we all knew this sword rattling was simply heating up the scene before a cordial get together.
As far as we know, North Korea had always been a hermetic state, closed to the world.
This is the chance for Trump to ease sanctions and then try to slice his way into the country.
North Koreans may not be munching McDonald burgers next week, though there is a feeling trade deals will soon follow.
It’s a massive country waiting to be explored and won over.
Too enticing to give up, when every developed country is locked in a competition to get their products across.
What about USS Pueblo?
Remember USS navy ship Pueblo? Just to brush your memory, it reportedly strayed into North Korean waters in 1968, during the Vietnam War, and was captured by the North.
The crew of the US ship were returned the same year but the ship was retained. Since talks have started, will there be a gesture from the Koreans to return the US ship, which is the only American naval boat still to be held captive?
Whatever happens, the memory of the mischief played by the crew of USS Pueblo remains vivid in mind: when they were asked to pose for a propaganda photo by the North Koreans to be shared with the world media, some of the members showed the middle finger, stating ‘up yours’, - a mark of defiance and disrespect to their captors.
Of course, this was later found out and the crew had to apologise and admit to entering North Korean waters for spying.
As far as we have seen, no one has shown ‘the finger’ as yet – which is a sign of optimism.
Shall we say the MIG and the Sabre seem to be heading for a second meeting with Jack Daniels present!
Towheed Feroze is a News Editor at Bangla Tribune and teaches at the University of Dhaka