Just hours before the much anticipated face-to-face meeting takes place in Singapore—and even as much of the corporate media continue to get the narrative wrong—peace advocates raised their voices on Monday to embrace the possibility that the summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean Leader Kim Jong-Un will result in an ongoing dialogue and negotiations that avoid the frightening alternative: an all-out war on the Korean peninsula, and the possible use of nuclear weapons, which would devastate the lives of tens of thousands if not millions of people.
"We are deeply concerned about the possibility of a war in Korea which would be a humanitarian catastrophe," said Dr. Ira Helfand, former head of Physicians for Social Responsibility, an advocacy group which organized a letter (pdf) sent to U.S. lawmakers on Monday urging them to make sure diplomacy is not abandoned regardless of what happens at the Kim-Trump summit.
The meeting is scheduled to take place on Tuesday in Singapore, but the time difference means that it will occur late Monday evening for most people living in the United States.
"The summit can be an important step toward denuclearization, but it is just the beginning of a process," Helfand said. "If the summit does not go well—and there is a good possibility that it will not—we cannot use this 'failure' as a pretext to go to war."
It's time to give peace a chance. Tell Congress to support peace and diplomacy with North Korea. Call 202.224.3121.— Medea Benjamin (@medeabenjamin) June 11, 2018
Last week, in anticipation of the summit, a broad coalition of Korean Americans—scholars, experts, and concerned citizens—issued a statement of unity which also championed the supremacy of diplomacy and offered detailed suggestions for a meaningful and lasting agreement.
Citing the success of the recent Inter-Korean summit between the North and South earlier this year, the group called for an agreement that would ensure the "complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula"—including a ban on the "testing, production, reception, possession, storage, stationing, and/or use of nuclear weapons on the entire Korean Peninsula."
Putting a focus on the U.S. role, the statement also said the American government "should stop all military action and exercises that deploy or introduce its strategic assets on the Korean Peninsula and abolish its nuclear umbrella over South Korea. Genuine peace on the Korean peninsula, which has housed nuclear weapons in both the North and the South and has been the site of acute military tensions for decades, should set a historic precedent and lead to global nuclear disarmament. Starting with the United States, all nuclear powers should take concrete steps to create a nuclear-free world."
Not only do a majority of Koreans support peace efforts, recent polls in the U.S. indicate that four out of five Americans support diplomacy with North Korea.
In a separate letter sent by progressive House Democrats to President Trump on Monday, the group of lawmakers committed to standing on the side of diplomacy while also making the president aware that even if talks do collapse, he has absolutely no authority to go to war:
We once again must remind you that in the unfortunate event of a setback or collapse in talks, you do not have the authority under the U.S. Constitution or U.S. law to strike North Korea. With the sole exception of instances requiring a response to a sudden attack, our founding fathers clearly granted the power to declare war to the Congress under Article I, Section 8, Clause 11. As James Madison explained, "The power to declare war, including the power of judging the causes of war, is fully and exclusively vested in the legislature […] the executive has no right, in any case, to decide the question, whether there is or is not cause for declaring war."
And Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), who helped organize the letter, tweeted:
Let’s be clear: A full-fledged war with North Korea would be a catastrophe for the national security interests of the U.S., our allies in Asia, and the global economy. Now is the time for restraint and diplomacy.— Ro Khanna (@RoKhanna) June 11, 2018
Other U.S.-based peace groups put out hope for progress, but also urged against a rash response from the Trump administration if a resolution is not immediate.
"Achieving peace, ridding the Korean peninsula of nuclear weapons, and confronting human rights abuses in North Korea will not happen overnight. The painstaking diplomacy required to achieve those ends will take years, if not decades," said Erica Fein, advocacy director for Win Without War, in a statement ahead of the summit.
"At the same time," she added, "we should remain vigilant that there are those who will seek to use any lack of progress as a pretext for war. But make no mistake, Americans, Koreans, and people the world over recognize that the Singapore Summit is the beginning of this diplomatic process. We stand with them and will work to prevent any push to turn this historic diplomatic opening into a prelude to a devastating war."
And as Jon Schwarz wrote for The Intercept on Monday, nothing matters more—regardless of what Kim offers or does not offer during the talks—than preventing Trump from starting a nuclear war.
"We should all pray that Tuesday is the beginning of long, drawn-out negotiations—whether extremely successful or empty and fruitless—since as long as discussions continue in any form," he argued, "it will be exceedingly difficult for Trump to mobilize the necessary support for war."