On March 9, 2018, President Donald J. Trump agreed to “meet Kim Jong-un by May to achieve permanent denuclearization.” North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, had invited President Trump to meet for negotiations over their nuclear program, an unprecedented offer that will bring together two strong-willed, idiosyncratic leaders who have traded threats of war. The meeting is scheduled to occur in May or late June, but the specific date and location is still undetermined. Sources state that the North Koreans are pushing to have the meeting in their capital, Pyongyang, although it is unclear whether the White House would be willing to meet there. Mongolia’s capital, Ulaanbaatar, as well as the United States’ capital, Washington D.C, have also been raised as possible locations. Trump tweeted, “For years and through many administrations, everyone said that peace and the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula was not even a small possibility. Now there is a good chance that Kim Jong-un will do what is right for his people and for humanity.”
President Moon Jae-in of South Korea is acting as the mediator between Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim. According to South Korean analysts and officials, Mr. Moon hopes for a “comprehensive deal” in which North Korea commits to dismantling their nuclear arsenal, and the United States reciprocates by offering security guarantees for North Korea, including normalized ties to Washington. South Korea has high hopes for this discussion, and has faith that the United States and North Korea will agree on a plan for denuclearization, and implement key points before the end of Trump’s term in 2021.
There has been a lot of skepticism towards the sincerity of North Korea’s statements. Many American officials had stated that North Korea has never been sincere with them, and that they are only using negotiations to buy time while investing in secret nuclear weapon developments. Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe are also expressing their concerns on this encounter. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is arriving in the U.S. next month to discuss his thoughts about the meeting with President Trump. Despite the situation, Trump has made it clear that he is going through with this historic moment to meet with Kim Jong-un, as no sitting United States President has ever met with a North Korean leader. However, Sue Mi Terry, a former CIA analyst and North Korea expert states that, “I wouldn’t say optimism is called for right now. I would be very cautious because … what North Korea expects out of this summit and what the U.S. expects may not be potentially aligned. Optimism is the last word I would use for this.”
This progress between the U.S. and one of the most volatile powers in the world is a beneficial development, but we can only hope that this initial step can further in achieving stability. For now, we can only wait for the results of this collaborative discussion, and hope it brings the peace we seek.