Gambling on peace

Meeting Kim Jong-un might be Donald Trump's first ever gamble

Editorial March 10, 2018

Agreeing to meet the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, may be the single biggest gamble taken by US President Donald Trump. It is no less of a leap of faith for Kim Jong-un which is at least consistent with Pyongyang’s recent overtures to South Korea and its leaders.

However, only the coming weeks will tell whether the gamble has paid off or not. Trump and Kim have long shown a proclivity towards unpredictability and this is perhaps why a summit has been proposed and accepted by the two sides. It is a far cry from the brinkmanship of the past, with its wild insinuations pitted against the backdrop of tension and hostility surrounding the Korean Peninsula.

For all the landmark progress made this week, there are a boat-load of issues that will continue to plague Pyongyang’s frosty relations with Washington. Foremost among these is the status of sanctions against the isolationist regime. There is a faint hope that some of these irritants will fade soon but as long as Kim Jong-un and Trump engage in face-to-face negotiations there is a lot that can change over the course of time.

In the last few days and weeks, however, we have seen palpable signs of change that could for very good reason be interpreted by the rest of the world as a dramatic shift in stances, especially in North Korea’s standpoint on denuclearisation. Such commitment was shared by Kim with South Korean envoys and conveyed to President Trump. While several neighbouring countries, such as China, have welcomed the development, it is important to sift the hype from the reality. Yes, an inter-Korean summit has happened but unless it is accompanied by full denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula following a US-North Korea meeting it would not be seen as successful. Rapprochement may not be around the corner but at least it is not out of reach.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 10th, 2018.

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