Against all the odds and after months of increased tensions on the Korean peninsula, there now appears to be a very real prospect of across-the-table negotiations over Pyongyang’s determination to miniature a nuclear weapon and place it on an intercontinental missile targeting the United States.
In a stunning development on Thursday in Washington, the White House said that President Donald Trump has accepted an invitation from North Korean Leader Kim Jung-un to meet face-to-face to negotiate an end to this dangerous stalemate. While no date has yet been set, the White House indicated that Trump wanted to make it happen “by May” at a location yet to be determined.
The offer of talks came as a delegation from South Korea delivered the message to Washington, and is but the latest in a series of developments that has seen peace break out where a military strike — or far worse — seemed all but inevitable.
Thanks to the fortuitous opportunity afforded by the Winter Olympics being hosted in South Korea in February, direct contact and talks across the De-Militarised Zone have generated sufficient goodwill for the regime of Kim Jung-un to offer talks.
Clearly, in any regard, this acceptance of that offer by the White House is a stunning, ambitious and historic turn of events, one that no one could have anticipated in their right mind just three months ago. While the government in Seoul has been broadly supported by Washington, there has been a growing divergence over an overly aggressive stance by the political leadership in the White House.
Military planners at the Pentagon, however, had expressed reluctance if not forthright opposition to any plan that might include a pre-emptive strike against nuclear and ballistic facilities north of the DMZ. Indeed, with thousands of heavy artillery pieces aimed at Seoul, any over-reaction on either side could — and still has the potential to — rain havoc and death for many.
In the past, the American president has stated his willingness to meet Kim face-to-fact anywhere and at any time. But he has also threatened to rain fire and fury on Kim’s nation and obliterate it off the face of the Earth.
Now that the talks seem a reality, it represents a significant coup for Kim, who will be portrayed to his fettered people as a man who brought the US to its knees. President Trump will portray it as a great diplomatic victory, that he is a great dealmaker, and it will be tremendous and beautiful.