The prospect of US President Donald Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un being ready for a face to face meeting, was unthinkable until a month ago.
South Korean National Security Advisor Chung Eui-Yong’s announcement at the White House that Trump has accepted Kim’s invitation for a direct meeting, really shocked the diplomatic world. Chung Eui-Yong revealed this major decision after talks with Trump and the national security team. Kim’s decision to hold talks with Trump is the outcome of the peace efforts spearheaded by South Korean President Moon Jae-in over the last few months. Moon Jae-in, a former human rights lawyer, had taken special interest in forming friendly ties with North Korea since he took charge as President in 2017. The events of both North Korea and South Korea marching side by side under one flag in Winter Olympics 2018 held in PyeongChang, and Kim’s sister and politburo member of North Korea, Kim Yo-jong attending the opening ceremony, helped melt the ice between both the Koreas.
South Korea also expressed willingness to postpone a joint military exercise scheduled to be held with the US at that time, to facilitate such a meeting and joint participation. After the talks with Yo-jong and the President, it was during the Pyongyang visit of National Security Advisor Chung Eui-Yong and his team that Kim expressed his willingness for a meeting with Trump. Date and venue have not been decided yet. Although much uncertainty exists over whether the meeting would become reality, creating circumstances where two warmongering countries on a faceoff would be holding talks with each other across a table, is definitely a great diplomatic victory for South Korea.
The announcement of Trump’s meeting with Kim has, however created a big chaos in the administrative department of the US. The news of Trump agreeing to meet Kim was revealed reportedly without consulting senior officials, security and secret service heads and advisors. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson who was on a trip to Africa, had revealed to the media persons two days ago that there was no possibility of a meeting with North Korea. It has been only a few days since Joseph Yun, the top US diplomat in Korea, resigned from his post following differences with the government. Hilary Clinton has criticized that the US administration has weakened due to the lack of experienced diplomats and that Trump has agreed for the meeting without recognizing this danger. Former US ambassador to the United Nations, Bill Richardson has warned that Trump should not consider the ‘negotiations with North Korea’ as a reality show.
Tillerson and Mattis are people who deem talks with North Korea meaningless. For that very reason, even as the ground is cleared for talks, the American position is that there will not be any relaxation of embargo. And as per information from White House sources, until North Korea becomes a fully nuclear disarmed nation, the embargo will continue. Moreover, the White House has premised the talks on a commitment to denuclearization. It was such conditions that blocked the possibility of previous negotiations with North Korea. And it would also be a double standard and illogical for America, with an arsenal of 7,000 nuclear arms and over 800 military bases, insist that negotiations with North Korea can be held only if that country makes full denuclearization.
Although critical readings describe Donald Trump's decision to accept Kim's invitation for a meeting without consultation as an example of the whimsical nature of his personality, America’s willingness for bilateral discussions is a good decision. In the current circumstances, initial talks may not yield big results. But they may help dispel the notion that war is the only course to remove the 'threat' of North Korea. Moreover, the very event of both sides sitting together can loosen the confrontation and contribute to opening of new path to a solution. The present day history of Iran and Iraq alone will suffice to prove that what wars will annihilate is not governments, but people and nations. In order to allay the fear of war, the US has to come forward to induct China and Japan also thereby making peace negotiations meaningful.