A historic day for diplomacy
Despite widespread speculation and doubt it seems today the impossible has happened. Kim Jong Un, leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and Donald Trump, President of the United States have held a landmark meeting in Singapore to discuss peace, diplomacy and ridding the Korean peninsula of nuclear weapons.
With a date in the calendar it looked like North Korean aggression had really turned a corner. The North released imprisoned US citizens, held meetings with South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in and destroyed its Nuclear test site in front of a selection of associated press. Then on the 24th of May the meeting took a big hit following Pyongyang’s string of angry epithets garnered from Vice-President Mike Pence's comments in the media. He had been eluding to the nuclear disarmament of Libya as a model the United States would instil during the meeting, something Kim’s regime would find particularly unsavoury as Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi opted to relinquish his nuclear capabilities, only to be overthrown by a western-backed revolution just months later.
North Korean official Choe Son-hui referred to the statements made by the Vice-President as “stupid” going on to say the North would not "beg" for dialogue and warned of a "nuclear showdown" if diplomacy failed. This aggressive rhetoric proved too much for Mr Trump, with the President announcing his withdrawal from the scheduled meeting due to "tremendous anger and open hostility".
What felt like a missed opportunity now seemed like the classic format of failed promises and plans we have grown accustom to from North Korea. Then in a surprise move North Korea reached out, suggesting that all parties involved should still aim for this 12th of June meeting and that the slate should be wiped clean in a move towards increased diplomacy. President Trump relented and here we are, watching a real piece of history unfold.
This meeting represents a lot for both leaders as it is the first time a sitting US president has met North Korea's leader. It is the first sign of a change since the division of Korea in 1954 and indicates a differing view from either of Kim Jong-un’s ancestors who would almost certainly have declined any meeting to discuss the laying down of weapons. Mr Kim will be looking to bring legitimacy to a nation long regarded as a pariah, whilst Mr Trump looks to bring an end to the North's nuclear threat, something none of his predecessors came close to.
Both leaders flew into Singapore on Monday in preparation for the meeting. With the world's press assembled both men made the historic first handshake at the Capella hotel in Sentosa, a pirate hangout-turned-millionaire playground just south of the main island. Much of the first exchange had clearly been well choreographed as is often the way with these diplomatic meetings. Following the photo opportunity both leaders headed into a meeting with other high-ranking officials to discuss basic plans moving forward.
As expected much of the discussion surrounded nuclear disarmament, with the two countries agreeing to co-operate towards "new relations", while the US would provide "security guarantees" to North Korea. Mr Kim "reaffirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula". Mr Trump also agreed to bring a halt to its "provocative" war games held with South Korea on the boarder of the DMZ. Both parties signed a document stating a pledge to work together before bringing a close to this brief but significant meeting.
No one can really predict what will happen next, with some observers saying the document lacks substance and real detail, in particular on how denuclearisation would be achieved. It will be some time before the next meeting, but for now at least we can all try to feel a little optimistic about a nuclear free Korea.