In a move that’s caught pretty much the whole world by surprise, Donald Trump has agreed to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un as early as May this year.
The president, who has in the past called Jong-un “Little Rocket Man,” said in a tweet a few hours ago: “Kim Jong Un talked about denuclearization with the South Korean Representatives, not just a freeze. Also, no missile testing by North Korea during this period of time. Great progress being made but sanctions will remain until an agreement is reached. Meeting being planned!”
And the White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders added: “@POTUS greatly appreciates the nice words of the S. Korean delegation & Pres Moon. He will accept the invitation to meet w/ Kim Jong Un at a place & time to be determined. We look forward to the denuclearization of NK. In the meantime all sanctions & maximum pressure must remain.”
News of the meeting was first delivered by South Korean officials who passed on a message to Trump at the White House that the North Korean leader was “committed to denuclearisation”.
South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in said the announcement “came like a miracle,” adding: “If President Trump and Chairman Kim meet following an inter-Korean summit, complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula will be put on the right track in earnest.”
In a statement sent to the Washington Post, North Korea’s UN ambassador said the “courageous decision” of the North Korean leader would help secure “peace and stability in the Korean Peninsula and the East Asia region”.
Here’s what it all could mean…
1. Stormy who?
On one level, this announcement serves as an extremely welcome distraction from a week of bad news centring on Trump’s involvement with former porn star Stormy Daniels and the ongoing Trump-Russia investigation by former FBI chief Robert Mueller. It wouldn’t be the first time the Trump administration has used this tactic.
2. The first ever president to do this
We know that Trump loves to be bold and loves to stand out, and this announcement certainly achieves this; according to the BBC, no sitting US president has ever met a North Korean leader. If Trump were able to pull off a meeting and start the process of denuclearising the rogue Asian state then that would undoubtedly be an incredible achievement.
But before we run away with ourselves, it’s important to point out that Trump ruthlessly attacked the Obama administration for its successful nuclear deal with Iran. So, is there a whiff of hypocrisy here? Maybe.
3. Has the president been played big time?
While this announcement could be seen as good news, some critics are already pointing out that Kim Jong-un seems to be the real winner here. Foreign Policy expert Jeffrey Lewis, from the Middlebury Inst of International Studies, argued on Twitter that “Kim is not inviting Trump so that he can surrender North Korea’s weapons. Kim is inviting Trump to demonstrate that his investment in nuclear and missile capabilities has forced the United States to treat him as an equal.”