Strategy required on offer by North Korea
From threatening to annihilate each other months ago, Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un have agreed to meet. China and South Korea would do well to help show direction to both parties
Summits of adversaries are usually the result of years of painstaking diplomacy. The talks between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump announced yesterday therefore come as a shock; each was threatening to annihilate the other’s country mere months ago. Nor have details of the meeting been revealed, although there are positive signs from the Korean side that nuclear and missile tests will be halted and there is willingness for denuclearisation. But as welcome as developments are, both leaders have a tempestuous streak that could too easily derail progress if not kept in check.
Kim, dismissed by Trump last year as “little rocket man”, reached out to the American president through South Korean officials he met on Monday. Trump wasted no time in accepting the offer to meet as soon as possible, with May tentatively set for the talks.
Not before has an incumbent US leader met his North Korean counterpart; a trail of broken promises, security risks and animosity stretching back to the Korean war six decades ago have got in the way.
Kim can now look forward to the prospect of sitting at the negotiating table as an equal to his US counterpart, despite having ignored a string of United Nations Security Council resolutions banning nuclear tests and missile launches.
While South Korean President Moon Jae-in has been instrumental in making the meeting happen, he is under extreme political pressure at home not to grant too many concessions to the North. Some politicians believe Kim is trying to disrupt Seoul’s military alliance with Washington and are mindful of Pyongyang’s record. Moon and Kim have agreed to hold a summit in the coming weeks and its success or otherwise will set the tone for the meeting with Trump.
There is every need for a strategy; Kim has so far been able to bully his way to getting what he wants. Trump claims to be an expert business negotiator, but has a dismal record of international diplomacy. At stake is the region’s peace and stability; China, South Korea and others with a vested interest have to encourage the sides and where necessary, help show direction.