Saturday, April 28, 2018

Korean Summit: One Small Step for Kim. One Giant Leap for Peace?

And NONE of it would have happened without Trump!

Growing up I never thought I would see the Berlin Wall come down, let alone the collapse of the Soviet Union and freedom for Eastern Europe.  But President Reagan had a vision of peace and with the persistent help of allies like Britain's Margaret Thatcher and Pope John Paul II the reality we see today became possible.  Are we witnessing another great moment in history today?

I doubted whether this was possible either:

South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un meet in the truce village of Panmunjom inside the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, South Korea, April 27, 2018. Korea Summit Press Pool/Pool via Reuters. Photo gallery at the Daily Caller. Step by step of the visit with photos and quote at Channel NewsAsia.

One step across a line separating one nation divided by war and the enmity of decades and suddenly peace seems possible. At their meeting the two leaders signed a joint statement titled the "Panmunjeom Declaration for Peace, Prosperity and Unification of the Korean Peninsula." The full text is here. The declaration begins:
The two leaders solemnly declared before the 80 million Korean people and the whole world that there will be no more war on the Korean Peninsula and thus a new era of peace has begun.

The two leaders, sharing the firm commitment to bring a swift end to the Cold War relic of longstanding division and confrontation, to boldly approach a new era of national reconciliation, peace and prosperity, and to improve and cultivate inter-Korean relations in a more active manner, declared at this historic site of Panmunjeom.
Three main points follow along with a pledge for continued direct communications and meetings. When North Korean leader Kim signed the guestbook at the South Korean "Peace House" he wrote: ""A new history starts now. An age of peace, from the starting point of history."

Before we start signing Kumbaya around the campfire it's important to remember that everything about North Korea must be taken with a grain of salt. Bruce Klingner at the Heritage Foundation and CIA veteran with direct experience in Korean affairs tweets:
With nuclear weapons being the only claim to fame for North Korea many are skeptical that they can or will give up those weapons and actually move to a complete "denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula" as promised. Kim made several statements suggesting this time would be different. “I came here to put an end to the history of confrontation,” said the North Korean leader. Kim also addressed past failures:
KIM: As the expectations are high, so is the skepticism. In the past, we had reached big agreements, but they were not implemented for more than 10 years. There are people who are skeptical that the results of today’s meeting will be properly implemented.
Today, we will make sure that the agreement we have reached, which the people of the Korean Peninsula and the world are watching, doesn’t repeat the unfortunate history of unfulfilled promises.
As the old saying goes, the proof is in the pudding. Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reacted: "I strongly ... hope that North Korea will take concrete actions. I will keep close eyes on North Korea's actions from now."

High Stakes for Trump

President Trump has been in close contact with South Korean and Japanese allies throughout this process. He recently met with Japan's Abe at Mar-a-Lago, his Florida White House. He's also been praised by South Korea's President Moon for fostering today's developments. But now, expectations have been raised especially in light of an even more unprecedented meeting between Kim and Trump.

Trump commented on the developments at a meeting with visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the White House on Friday:

Trump: "We're not going to be played."

With National Security Advisor John Bolton and newly confirmed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo onboard Trump has the kind of strong and level headed team to assure progress. While some observers fret Trump may not realize what he's walking into others in the know suggest that there is likely to be solid progress behind the scenes that may explain Trump's cautious optimism. However,  Trump has made it clear from the beginning of discussions on a Trump-Kim summit that he's prepared to walk away if negotiations don't bear fruit. Unlike past leaders who Trump said were "played like a fiddle." Right there, that kind of frank talk is encouraging. Stay tuned!

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