In a bold stroke of diplomacy, President Trump sent CIA Director and Secretary of State-designate Mike Pompeo to North Korea to meet with its dictator Kim Jong-un during the Easter weekend. On Wednesday President Trump confirmed the meeting in a tweet, in which he said that the meeting “went very smoothly and a good relationship was formed.” The president added that details were being worked out for the summit meeting he hopes to have with Kim Jong-un in May or early June. Five locations are being considered for the summit. “Denuclearization will be a great thing for World, but also for North Korea!” President Trump tweeted.
Kim Jong-un is reportedly planning to formally announce that he is willing to denuclearize North Korea when he meets with South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in later this month. In addition, according to an April 18th report in the New York Times, South Korea confirmed that “it had been in talks with American and North Korean officials about negotiating a peace treaty to formally end the Korean War after more than 60 years, as the United States and its ally try to establish a basis for persuading the North to give up its nuclear weapons.” President Trump indicated that he had given his “blessing” to North and South Korea for their talks aimed at negotiating a peace treaty to replace the 1953 armistice, which would formally put an end to the technical state of war between the two Koreas.
While such developments leading to the increased possibility of a diplomatic solution to the Korean Peninsula crisis have created hope in some quarters, caution is in order. North Korea’s past record of broken promises speaks for itself. Time after time, its leaders have gamed agreements to pocket concessions made by the United States and its allies while continuing to advance North Korea’s nuclear arms and ballistic missile programs. President Trump’s policy of exerting maximum economic pressure on North Korea, including by bringing China on board at least in part, has no doubt played a major role in moving North Korea towards consideration of denuclearization in the first place. Letting up on the economic pressure campaign too early will give North Korea invaluable breathing room to continue parts of its programs in secret. It will be very difficult, if not impossible, to put all the stringent multilateral sanctions back into place with broad international consensus so long as North Korea acts like it is interested in peace.