North Korea is willing to discuss the issue of denuclearization of the Korean Penisula when Kim Jong-un meets with Donald Trump, according to an unidentified US official, representing a major step in diplomatic negotiations between the two countries after a year of heightened tensions.
Secret communications have been taking place between the two nations recently in which Pyongyang directly expressed its willingness to hold the summit that would see President Donald Trump personally meet with Kim Jong-un, a move that has caused concern with both South Korea and much of America’s political scene. The direct messages have been a breakthrough in themselves as traditionally, South Korea has often been the messenger regarding North Korea’s intentions.
The assurance has followed several months of diplomatic activity that has seen North Korea gradually unbend itself and re-open diplomatic ties with its Southern neighbor including its mostly symbolic gesture to send athletes to the Winter Olympics. South Korean negotiators later met with their North Korean counterparts where the possibility of the North suspending its nuclear programme was raised-if the USA came to the negotiating table.
The diplomatic buzz around North Korea was itself welcomed with hope and caution in equal measure after a series of sanctions, nuclear missile tests and harsh words, including Trump’s bombastic tweets, briefly threatened to escalate tensions in the Korean Peninsula into nuclear war. Despite the recent actions to de-escalate tensions, there is still a great deal of distrust and bitterness on both sides.
Donald Trump’s impulsive decision to meet with Kim Jong-un is also a major source of uncertainty with some experts claiming that the decision, made without any real consultation handed North Korea a diplomatic win. Trump is putting his reputation as a deal-maker at stake, having already garnered a mixed reception to such a distinction in the US where he has often butted heads with Congress. In agreeing to meet with Kim directly, Trump hopes that a major diplomatic breakthrough with the often reclusive North Korean leader will ease tensions and prove his detractors in Washington wrong.
But the meeting is fraught with opportunities for disaster to strike. Despite the private assurances, Pyongyang has been mostly quiet in the public realm over the idea of the summit itself. There remains the question of what denuclearization means to both sides which the US sees as North Korea giving up its nuclear arsenal, a definition that is a touchy subject for Pyongyang. Trump is confident North Korea will honor its commitments to stop nuclear tests but a loss of face for either side would send everything back to square one.
Kim is a wild card in the matter, but then again, so is Trump. Having lost several high-profile advisors and facing several major scandals, Trump is perhaps more reckless and impulsive as ever. Any misunderstanding or contradiction could put the lid on any face-to-face with Kim or turn the summit into another public spat. It also remains to be seen whether the appointment of John Bolton, a hardline hawk who advocates war with Iran and North Korea, as US National Security Adviser will also affect the upcoming meeting.
No fixed date has been set for the meeting nor has the location been agreed upon but US officials stated that the meeting is still set to happen around May and that direct contact will still continue between both nations.