Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump: From enemies to frenemies?[/caption]
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump are to meet in person by May, it has been announced, an extraordinary overture after months of mutual hostility.News of the meeting was delivered by South Korean officials after talks with Mr Trump at the White House. They passed a verbal message from Mr Kim, saying the North Korean leader was “committed to denuclearisation”. Mr Trump hailed “great progress” but said sanctions would remain in place. South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in said the news “came like a miracle”. “If President Trump and Chairman Kim meet following an inter-Korean summit, complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula will be put on the right track in earnest,” he said. China has welcomed the development, saying the Korean peninsula issue was “heading in the right direction” and calling for “political courage”. However, correspondents say the North has halted missile and nuclear tests during previous talks, only to resume them when it lost patience or felt it was not getting what it demanded. The latest announcement came days after the South Korean delegation met Mr Kim in Pyongyang. Speaking outside the White House after briefing Mr Trump, South Korean National Security Adviser Chung Eui-yong said he had passed on a message that Mr Kim was “committed to denuclearisation” and had “pledged that North Korea will refrain from any further nuclear or missile tests”. In a statement sent to the Washington Post, North Korea’s UN ambassador said the “courageous decision” of Mr Kim would help secure “peace and stability in the Korean Peninsula and the East Asia region”. There is no indication yet of where the Trump-Kim talks might take place, but the Korean border’s demilitarised zone (DMZ) and Beijing are seen as likely options.
Moon’s huge gambleAnalysis by BBC’s Laura Bicker in Seoul President Moon Jae-in has acknowledged there are obstacles ahead. He is managing expectations and so much can go wrong. His approval ratings took a hit during the Winter Olympics after he integrated the women’s hockey team with players from the North and met a general from Pyongyang who had been accused of masterminding deadly attacks on South Koreans, though they have since rebounded. These talks are a huge gamble with a communist state which is hard to read. But if, just if, he helps pull it off, it may reduce the threat of nuclear war and he could win himself a Nobel Peace prize. If all fails, it is back to brinkmanship. Read Laura’s piece in full
How did we reach this point?North Korea has been isolated for decades because of its well-documented human rights abuses and its pursuit of nuclear weapons, in defiance of international laws. It has carried out six nuclear tests, and has missiles which could reach the US. It says it needs these to ensure its survival. But South Korea’s hosting of the Winter Olympics gave an unexpected window for diplomacy. Rare inter-Korean talks were held to facilitate the North’s carefully choreographed attendance. South Korea then held landmark talks with Mr Kim in Pyongyang this week, returning home saying the North was willing to give up its nuclear weapons if it felt it had no reason to keep them.
What has North Korea pledged?There were four main elements to the statement delivered by Mr Chung:
- Mr Kim is prepared to sit down with the US president
- North Korea is “committed to denuclearisation”
- It will halt all nuclear and missile tests
- It understands that US-South Korean military drills “must continue”.
- The BBC’s Laura Bicker in Seoul says it is important to note that North Korea has not yet promised to abandon its nuclear weapons completely.