North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump plan to meet in May for nuclear disarmament talks, a whiplash development that would put two leaders who’ve repeatedly insulted, threatened and dismissed each other in the same room, possibly in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang.
It would have been an unthinkable suggestion just a few months ago, when the insults were at their peak — Trump was a “senile dotard” and Kim was “Little Rocket Man” — and the North was snapping off regular weapons tests in a dogged march toward its goal of a viable nuclear arsenal that can threaten the U.S. mainland.
Liberal South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who some believe has maneuvered the two leaders to this position, reflected the hope and relief many here feel about the planned summit, when he declared Friday that it will be a “historical milestone” that will put the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula “really on track.”
But there’s also considerable skepticism.
North Korea, after all, has made a habit of reaching out after raising fears during previous crises with offers of dialogue meant to win aid and concessions. It has also, from the U.S. point of view, repeatedly cheated on past nuclear deals.
And now the North has landed a face-to-face meeting with the leader of the world’s most powerful country, a nation that Pyongyang has long sought to draw into talks that it hopes would establish a peace treaty to end the technically still-active Korean War and drive out all U.S. troops from the Korean Peninsula, removing what the North says is a hostile encirclement of its territory by Washington and Seoul.
“Great progress being made,” Trump tweeted after the South Korean national security director, Chung Eui-yong, emerged from a meeting with Trump and announced the summit plans to reporters in a hastily called appearance on a White House driveway.