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A groundbreaking meeting between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-In ended in promises of a denuclearized peninsula and peace between the two nations late last week, raising hopes for continued reconciliation in the contentious region during expected talks between Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump.
According to Politico, Kim and Moon met in the demilitarized zone along their shared border Friday, with multiple reports claiming that Kim agreed to end the North Korean nuclear missile program, as long as both South Korea and the United States agree against any military action and bring an official treaty to end the long-standing Korean War.
“Once we start talking, the United States will know that I am not a person to launch nuclear weapons at South Korea, the Pacific or the United States,” Moon’s spokesman Yoon Young-chan quoted Kim as saying. “If we meet often and build trust with the United States, and if an end to the war and nonaggression are promised, why would we live in difficulty with nuclear weapons?”
But while the historic meeting was immediately considered a diplomatic breakthrough, especially considering Kim’s threats of nuclear warfare and President Trump’s boisterous Twitter responses just last year, foreign policy experts are still skeptical that Friday’s meeting lead to concrete follow-up actions or firm agreements.
From the 1970s to the present, North Korean leaders have made repeated promises about ending conflicts in the East Asian peninsula, but time and again have walked back those statements to pursue further isolation and a larger armory. So even as Trump is expected to meet with Kim sometime in the coming months for yet another historic meeting, the president’s advisors are still not convinced that Kim is ready to follow through on his most recent pledges.
“We want to see real commitment,” Trump national security advisor John R. Bolton told CBS’ “Face the Nation” over the weekend. “We don’t want to see propaganda from North Korea. We’ve seen words. We’ve seen words so far.”
As recently as January of this year, Trump took to Twitter to threaten nuclear engagement against Kim and North Korea, just months after using his favorite social media site to label Kim “Rocket Man.” But even despite the heated rhetoric, the White House announced last month that the two heads of state would talk face-to-face in an unprecedented meeting.
Now, after Kim has become the first North Korean leader to set foot on South Korean soil, Trump’s planned meeting is increasingly important, with some pundits suggesting that the pair could sort out an action-ready plan for North Korean denuclearization and general peace on the peninsula before the year’s end.
“This is a great start and should be cause for cautious optimism,” said Patrick McEachern, analyst for the Wilson Center, a think tank in Washington. “The public conversation should now shift from speculation on whether North Korea would consider denuclearization to how South Korea and the United States can advance this denuclearization pledge in concrete steps in light of North Korea’s reciprocal demands for concrete steps toward an eventual peace agreement.”
And if you listen to Kim (or at least what President Moon’s spokesmen say Kim said), that potential peace agreement is not only on the table, but a priority for the controversial North Korean leader.
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“I am determined not to repeat the painful history of the Korean War. As the same nation living on the same land, we should never shed blood again,” Kim told President Moon, according to Mr. Yoon.
Despite White House confirmation that Trump and Kim will indeed meet, no exact time or location has yet been released.
(h/t New York Times)