The world waits in optimistic anticipation about the resolution of conflict on the Korean peninsula
09 Marzo 2018 12:58
A momentous day is being hailed with quiet caution after Donald Trump accepted an invitation from North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to hold a first-of-its-kind summit meeting to discuss the future of the regime’s nuclear and missile programme.
Months of tension have plagued relations between the two countries, propelling the world into a crisis about the repressive regime’s nuclear developments. However, when South Korean officials appeared outside the White House to announce Kim’s invitation to Trump, hope for a resolution became more tangible. The White House confirmed Trump was willing to meet Kim ‘by May’, at a time and location yet to be worked out.
If the meeting goes ahead, it will be the first ever diplomatic summit between leaders of the two countries. Pyongyang has hoped for a summit with the US for years to reflect what the regime sees as its status as a regional military power. But no leaders to date have accepted the offer.
Officials in the White House are hailing this unprecedented step as a win for Trump’s policy of ‘maximum pressure’ and emphasised that the US would not relax its strict sanctions against North Korea before formal denuclearisation had been agreed. Trump ‘is not prepared to reward North Korea in exchange for talks’, a senior official said.
US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, said Trump agreed to hold talks because the US was surprised at how ‘forward-leaning’ Kim was in his conversations with a visiting South Korean delegation earlier this week.
‘President Trump has said for some time that he was open to talks and he would willingly meet with Kim when conditions were right. And I think in the president’s judgment that time has arrived now,’ he said.
Moon Jae-in, South Korea’s president, praised the possible meeting as a ‘historic milestone’ in the fight for peace on the peninsula. Trump himself confirmed the meeting in a tweet, writing: ‘Kim Jong Un talked about denuclearization with the South Korean Representatives, not just a freeze. Also, no missile testing by North Korea during this period of time. Great progress being made but sanctions will remain until an agreement is reached. Meeting being planned!’
Kim Jong Un talked about denuclearization with the South Korean Representatives, not just a freeze. Also, no missile testing by North Korea during this period of time. Great progress being made but sanctions will remain until an agreement is reached. Meeting being planned!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 9, 2018
In a statement, the White House said: ‘President Trump greatly appreciates the nice words of the South Korean delegation and President Moon. He will accept the invitation to meet with Kim Jong-un at a place and time to be determined. We look forward to the denuclearisation of North Korea. In the meantime, all sanctions and maximum pressure must remain.’
Although there is optimism in the air, many officials and world leaders will view this invitation with scepticism. There have been no negotiations that have stuck between the US and North Korea since 2012. And nothing yet suggests anything will be different this time around. All the world can do is hope.