Just the Facts

The Facts on Korea’s Big Meeting

By No Labels
April 27, 2018 | Blog

The conversation in America about North Korea has been dominated for the last year by the tumultuous relationship between President Trump and Kim Jong-un, two blunt leaders who spent much of the year trading threats and insults.

So Americans could be forgiven for being caught off guard when Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in held a historic meeting this week, filled with talk of peace and nuclear disarmament. But that’s exactly what happened as the two men met amid a great deal of ceremony, signing a joint statement saying they would work toward formally ending a Korean War that still has not officially ended.

 

While there is much ground for the two countries and the United States to cover, the discussion could forecast a tectonic shift in North Korea’s relationship with its southern neighbor, the U.S. and the rest of the world. Here’s what you need to know:

 

The meeting was historic

The meeting marked the first time that a leader from North Korea has set foot in South Korea in more than 50 years. Though once a single territory under Japanese rule, Korea was split into North and South after World War II, with the South under American influence and the North under Soviet control. The two Korean states have been officially at war since the 1950s and remain so today.

 

It could officially stop the Korean War

The Korean war began in 1950, when the North, backed by the Soviets, invaded the South, backed by the U.S. The fighting stopped in 1953, but the war had no official end. This week, the two leaders discussed bringing an end to the war, whether by treaty or otherwise. President trump tweeted in all caps, “KOREAN WAR TO END.”

 

It could start nuclear disarmament talks

The declaration signed by the two leaders announced their intent to pursue denuclearization. “South and North Korea confirmed the common goal of realizing, through complete denuclearization, a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula,” the statement said. What that means for North Korea’s budding nuclear program, and the capability of the U.S. to conduct military exercises that involve nuclear capabilities in South Korea, remains to be seen.

 

It may lead to a meeting between Trump and Kim

The meeting between the two Korean leaders makes a summit between Kim and Trump far more likely. It is a stunning development for two countries that, at present, do not have formal diplomatic ties and two leaders who, just months ago, were calling each other names. But CIA Director and Secretary of State nominee Mike Pompeo visited Kim recently. And the president has indicated he is willing to meet. If a meeting does take place, it is likely to be in May or June.

 

There’s still a long way to go

While the progress between North Korea and South Korea is tangible, and diplomatic relations between the U.S. and North Korea appear to be improving, there is still much to be addressed. One example is the three American citizens being held by North Korea. More obvious are North Korea’s nuclear capabilities and the U.S economic sanctions. As the president tweeted, “good things are happening, but only time will tell.”

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