Analysts who evaluate international diplomacy, nuclear proliferation agreements and human rights are digging into the details of the Trump-Kim summit and finding a multitude of reasons to dub this event “summit light,” at best.
But let’s be fair. The Trump-Kim meeting has lowered the temperature building towards a nuclear event. That, alone, is reason to call the meeting a success, even if it didn’t produce many of the specifics summit watchers wanted.
No, the meeting didn’t end with an iron-clad plan for how North Korea will “denuclearize,” and we apparently still don’t know all of the components in North Korea’s nuclear arsenal.
Yes, North Korea has broken promises to get rid of its nukes before. It pledged to denuclearize in 2005, and obviously didn’t. In 2012, shortly after Kim Jong Un came to power, North Korea agreed to a moratorium on long-range missile launches - then it broke that promise, too.
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Perhaps it was what happened last November that led to President Trump shifting his strategy from one of insulting “Little Rocket Man,” to looking for a way to negotiate with him.
That was when North Korea conducted its third intercontinental ballistic missile test, launching a rocket believed to have the capability of striking anywhere in the United States. It got the attention of a lot of Americans and made many of us shudder.
If lessening that growing threat requires our acknowledging Kim Jong Un on the world stage; allowing his country’s flag to be posted alongside our Stars and Stripes; and providing an opportunity for North Korea to become more economically stable; can we say we’ve given up too much?
Another door that has opened with this summit is a promise to return the remains of U.S. military who disappeared during the Korean War. Some 5,300 went missing in North Korea. Their families have waited decades for them to come home.
No one, including Trump, believes this is more than an opening overture. The hard work on developing a plan to assure and verify denuclearization is yet to come. If the United States determines the North Koreans aren’t following through we can always reinstitute the sanctions and hardline approach we’ve taken in the past.
But diplomacy is always better than going to war, even if the chief diplomats are unorthodox and unpredictable.
We’ve come a long way since “Little Rocket Man.”