Manitobans greet North Korea denuclearization announcement with skepticism

"All you've got is a commitment from the North Korean leader — dictator — and that really isn't worth the paper it's written on,' says former foreign affairs minister Lloyd Axworthy.

'I don't think I can say I believe it now, but I see the positive gesture,' says business owner Jennifer Choi

Former minister of foreign affairs Lloyd Axworthy says the agreement between the U.S. and North Korea is thin and likely not worth the paper it's printed on. (CBC)

Winnipeg's Korean community greeted the announcement of a denuclearization deal between the United States and North Korea with hope and skepticism.

Jennifer Choi, a local business owner and member of the Korean community, says her community has heard promises from North Korea leader Kim Jong-un before. 

"I don't think I can say I believe it now, but I see the positive gesture.… You have to see if it [will come] true or not. It's empty words."

Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump met Tuesday, with Trump pledging unspecified "security guarantees" to North Korea and Kim recommitting to the "complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula."

Speaking at a news conference after the summit in Singapore, Trump said there's more to be done but "we're ready to write a new chapter between our nations."

Talks will continue and Trump said he'd invite Kim "at the appropriate time" to come to the White House.

U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hands with North Korea leader Kim Jong-un at the Capella resort on Sentosa Island Tuesday, June 12, 2018 in Singapore. (Evan Vucci/ Associated Press )

Choi's parents, who also live in Winnipeg, watched the announcement as it was happening and they were excited, she said.

"I cannot say it's promising, but I can say it's hopeful — the movement and their agreement and when they shake their hands together, it's, like, really good — great moment in world history," she said.

South Koreans do hope that they can once again be united with the North, but there are many questions to be answered, like how the two distinct societies would be integrated, and if anyone would hold Kim Jong-un to account for numerous documented human rights abuses.

Still, Choi said she hopes the talks are the start of moving forward.

"It's very important gesture."

All you've got is a commitment from the North Korean leader — dictator — and that really isn't worth the paper it's written on.- Lloyd Axworthy

However, former Canadian foreign affairs minister Lloyd Axworthy said that's all it was — a gesture. 

"There's nothing that came out of the meetings yesterday that gives me much confidence," said Axworthy. 

"Canada, for example, was part of an agreement, a very similar agreement in 1994. But there was an awful lot … more procedure and process, to determine whether in fact the North Koreans were going to live up to their commitments. They didn't, so the agreement fell apart. Similarly in 2005, same thing."

No one has spelled out the details of the agreement, said Axworthy. 

"All you've got is a commitment from the North Korean leader — dictator — and that really isn't worth the paper it's written on."

Axworthy believes North Korea's ultimate goal isn't denuclearization, but instead, removing the U.S. military presence in the area. 

"They want the Americans out of there, so they have an awful lot more leeway on that particular peninsula," he said.

"So before we start giving [Trump] the prize, let's get beyond the kind of hoopla and really look at what's been achieved."

Trump will likely look like a fool in the end if North Korea doesn't follow through with its promises, said Kelly Saunders, political science associate professor at Brandon University.

"That's always the high-risk gamble when you deal with people like the Kim Jong-uns of the world," said Saunders.

"They're people that have no problem … horrifically oppressing people. I mean, this is a regime that has one of the absolute worst human rights records in the entire world."

The entire situation comes down to a matter of trust, said Saunders. "And this is a regime that in the past has proven it's not trustworthy."

With files from Meaghan Ketcheson and The Associated Press