It was announced on Thursday that the leader of North Korea, Kim Jong Un, has extended an invitation to President Trump for a face-to-face meeting. As far as foreign policy developments go, this could be a major sea change in the conflict over North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. Then again, we have seen this sort of thing in the past, so there are no guarantees that the NorKs have any intention of changing their ways, rather they may be simply buying time.
CNN reports on the background behind this “bombshell” announcement:
The meeting, announced by a South Korean delegation at the White House on Thursday night, would, if it goes ahead, mark an unmatched moment of history in the 70-year standoff between the US and the isolated state.
In the short term, a meeting could defuse the spiraling tensions between the US and North Korea that have raised fears the two nations are on an accelerating slide to a clash that could kill millions on the Korean peninsula.
“I think this is a positive step. I think the world is breathing a sigh of relief,” former CIA chief and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told CNN, warning intricate diplomatic planning and attention to detail would be required.
Talks would represent a huge risk for Trump, who would be putting the prestige of the United States and his own credibility on the line. So far, there are few signs that he has secured significant returns to justify such a step. [Emphasis added]
The news stories are already falling over themselves questioning the move, such as the sentence I highlighted above. However, the point is that we don’t know what is happening behind the scenes, and we won’t know until we get closer to the meeting date in May. The President claims the meeting only became possible once North Korea agreed to suspend their nuclear testing:
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
According to Fox News, Russia and South Korea are greeting the move with optimism:
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was quoted by Russian state news agency Tass on Friday saying — during a visit to the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa — that Russia considers the move by Trump and Kim to be “a step in the right direction.”
South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha said, during a visit to Hanoi, Vietnam, that her government was consulting with the U.S. on the planned summit — and hopes that if it does take place, “it’s a meaningful meeting with good outcome.”
Yes, President Trump and “Rocket Man” will have much to talk about. The current sanctions will remain in place and nothing has changed in terms of US policy toward the rogue state at this time. It’s possible that the sanctions may be hurting the regime to the point where they needed a diversion tactic to reset the situation, it’s impossible to know what the motives are for their desire to meet with the President.