President Donald Trump’s stunning decision to meet Kim Jong Un sets up the prospect of the most mind boggling diplomatic summit in modern history.
Trump, a reality star turned convention busting President, has dubbed Kim “Little Rocket Man” and threatened to rain fire and fury over North Korea, raising fears of a devastating war across the world’s last Cold War frontier.
Kim, a portly 30-something whose state media recently blasted Trump as a “lunatic mean old trickster and human reject” presides over a prison state, purges his foes and has vowed to obliterate the US in a nuclear cloud.
The meeting, announced by a South Korean delegation at the White House on Thursday night, would, if it goes ahead, mark an unmatched moment of history in the 70-year standoff between the US and the isolated state.
In the short term, a meeting could defuse the spiraling tensions between the US and North Korea that have raised fears the two nations are on an accelerating slide to a clash that could kill millions on the Korean peninsula.
“I think this is a positive step. I think the world is breathing a sigh of relief,” former CIA chief and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told CNN, warning intricate diplomatic planning and attention to detail would be required.
Talks would represent a huge risk for Trump, who would be putting the prestige of the United States and his own credibility on the line. So far, there are few signs that he has secured significant returns to justify such a step.
For decades, the Kim dynasty has used diplomatic coercion and brinkmanship twinned with offers of talks and demands for concessions to cheat their way to a nuclear arsenal and preserve a tyrannical regime in defiance of the US.
So there’s a real chance Trump could be walking into a massive trap.
Concerns about his approach will be magnified by the impulsive way he announced the breakthrough, bursting into the White House briefing room, to tell journalists to expect a major announcement.