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What the papers said 12 June 2018

rfi English, Jun 12

Once again US President Donald Trump dominates the front pages, thanks to his meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

With newspapers anywhere, in fact, since the historic handshake between the American president and the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, is this the top story globally?

At stake is the end of North Korea's nuclear arms programme, something which the US president wants to happen immediately but which American experts warn will take at least 10 years, possibly 15, once Kim Jong-un accepts US conditions and guarantees.

The same scientists have warned that such a long process, involving dozens of sites, hundreds of buildings and thousands of personnel, could well be derailed at any moment by President Trump's trademark impatience.

A high-risk game for all parties

Right-wing Le Figaro describes the summit as a high-risk venture. They mean geopolitically. But there's also a risk for Kim Jong-un, whose tour of Singapore commercial attractions is all over the front page of the North Korean Workers Party paper, Rodong Sinmun.

If the official message is to celebrate the sanctification of Kim as a key player in international politics, there is also the danger that millions of North Koreans will feel envious of Singapore's blatant wealth. North Korea suffers from shortages of many basic necessities and has virtually no street lighting. If you doubt that, just look at a satellite image of east Asia at night. The black hole in the middle is North Korea.

Many of Kim's compatriots will cast an envious eye on the menu for the working dinner which awaits the two leaders when they've finished shaking hands.

The starters include shrimp, squid, avocados, mangoes and stuffed Korean cucumber. Beef in red wine, crispy sweet-and-sour pork and braised cod constitute the main courses.

And they will wrap up with chocolate tart, ice cream with cherry sauce and a very French tarte tropézienne. Another diplomatic victory for Emmanuel Macron!

What are the regional implications of the Singapore meeting?

Le Figaro looks at the diplomatic menu as well, suggesting that China, South Korea and Russia, all risk serious indigestion as a result of the way Trump's attempt to rewrite seven decades of Asian history over a nine-course dinner will affect the regional balance of power.

The right-wing paper stresses the complexity of the subject, quoting Michael Green, Asia director at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies.

He says Trump may think it's a simple game of draughts while Kim sees this as the opening of a chess tournament, with matches in progress on several boards at once. North Korea has not the slightest interest in denuclearisation, says Green. They just want to end decades of isolation and claim recognition on the global stage. That has already been achieved, even if the talks ultimately fail from an American point of view.

Chinese President Xi Jinping loaned Kim Jong-un the plane which brought the Rocket Man to Singapore. Kim has twice visited Beijing since the meeting with Trump was first mooted. Xi is described by Le Figaro as the godfather of the North Korean regime. China would like to see a return to multiparty talks, so that Beijing can exert a direct influence on proceedings. But we all know that Donald Trump prefers a bilateral approach. For the moment, says Le Fiagro, China is playing chess, too, but on a neighbouring board.

Never one to be left behind, Russia's Vladimir Putin has sent his Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to Pyongyang with warmest greetings and an invitation for Kim to attend an economic forum in Moscow in September.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is wondering where all this leaves his country's special relationship with the United States. He says he'd be happy to have his own face-to-face with Kim, clearly the man to meet at the moment.

And in South Korea President Moon Jae-in goes on quietly orchestrating moves for peace and dialogue. That beats building nuclear bomb shelters.

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