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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 18 August 2018

A Nobel Peace Prize for Donald Trump? Don't rule it out

The US president has been nominated for the prestigious prize by a pair of anti-immigrant Norwegian politicians

In this June 9, 2018 file photo, President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference at the G-7 summit in La Malbaie, Quebec. AP  /  Evan Vucci
In this June 9, 2018 file photo, President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference at the G-7 summit in La Malbaie, Quebec. AP  /  Evan Vucci

A pair of Norwegian politicians has nominated US president Donald Trump for the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize. In a statement released on Thursday, Christian Tybring-Gjedde, a lawmaker, and Per-Willy Amundsen, a former justice minister, said Mr Trump deserved the prize for having “taken a huge and important step in the direction of the disarmament, peace and reconciliation between North and South Korea".

The move potentially sets in train a push for the award to go to the man who has championed a policy of "America First" isolationism. Mr Trump became the first US president to meet a North Korean ruler when he flew last week to Singapore to hold one-on-one talks with Kim Jong-un. But talk of the peace prize for the US president has been steadily gaining traction in America’s conservative circles ever since Mr Trump first expressed his willingness to engage directly with the ruler of the hermit kingdom earlier this year.

In May, 18 Republican members of the US Congress formally submitted Mr Trump’s name for the Nobel Peace Prize “in recognition of his work to end the Korean war, denuclearise the Korean peninsula and bring peace to the region”. The same month, when Mr Trump raised the prospect of peace between the Korean neighbours – who are still officially at war since signing an armistice in 1953 – at a rally in Michigan, the crown yelled back: “Nobel.”

Four US presidents – Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Jimmy Carter, Barack Obama – have so far received the most prestigious peace prize in the world. Mr Obama’s prize, conferred on him during his first year in office, attracted heavy criticism. Nominations for the 2009 prize closed 12 days after Mr Obama was sworn into office. Critics seized on this fact to accuse the Norwegian Nobel Committee, the body responsible for awarding the prize, of making up its mind to honour the 44th US president before he had accomplished anything that justified even his name being considered for the prize.

In 2015, Geir Lundestad, who served as the secretary of the Nobel Committee for 25 years beginning in 1990, regretted the decision to give the prize to Mr Obama. "Even many of Obama's supporters believed that the prize was a mistake”, he wrote in his tell-all book Secretary of Peace. “In that sense the committee didn't achieve what it had hoped for."

In contrast, say Mr Trump’s supporters, Mr Obama’s successor has made a historic breakthrough in Korea that could potentially put an end to what has long been regarded as one of the most intractable conflicts in the world. “Unlike Obama, [Trump] actually deserves the Nobel Peace Prize”, Laura Ingraham, an influential presenter on Fox news, tweeted in April. The idea has been endorsed by South Korean president Moon Jae-in.

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Critics say it is too premature to hail Mr Trump’s diplomacy in Korea as a success. There is no clear roadmap as yet for North Korea’s denuclearisation and no details about sanctions relief. The path to normalisation of relations between Pyongyang and Washington is a long and arduous one. Mr Trump’s supporters, however, appear determined to advance his name for the prize. Some of them seem so impatient to see Mr Trump in Oslo that they may have violated the rules of the Nobel Committee. In February, Olav Njolstad, the secretary of the committee, revealed that he had uncovered two forged nominations of Mr Trump for the 2018 peace prize.

For a nomination to be considered valid, it must be made by a person or organisation that falls in the broad categories listed in the Nobel Committee’s rules. Members of parliaments and national assemblies, justices at the the International Court of Justice, university professors of certain disciplines, previous recipients of the peace prize are among those who qualify.

Mr Tybring-Gjedde and Mr Per-Willy Amundsen are members of the anti-immigrant Progress Party. The former has likened the hijab to a Nazi uniform and demanded stricter immigration controls. The Nobel Committee does not reveal the names of the nominees for 50 years. Some 216 individuals and 114 organisations have been nominated for the 2018 prize, which will be announced in October. Asked directly in May by a reporter if he deserved the Nobel, Mr Trump replied: “Everyone thinks so, but I would never say it.”

If he is not invited to Oslo next year – or at any time during his presidency – the soonest the world will find out if Mr Trump was ever considered for the Nobel Peace Prize is 2069.

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