An amazing historic meeting just took place in Korea between the North Korean dictator Kim Jon-Un and the South Korean President Moon Jae-in. Such a meeting is unprecedented when the N. Korean leader crossed the demarcation line at Panmunjon and embraced the S. Korean leader. Kim has made statements that are diametrically opposite to the recent belligerent statements he had been making. He has promised to denuclearize the Korean peninsula, close the major missile test site in the North and invite S. Korean and US representatives to witness its closing. Also, this Korean meeting is a prelude to the much-anticipated meeting between Kim and US President Trump.
Why now? Why has Kim agreed to these meetings and stopped his belligerence towards the US and S. Korea, and even suggested finally signing a peace treaty. There are two answers to this question, first the answer is Trump! Trump is the first President to threaten using military force against the North in response to Kim’s deliberate provocations, and furthermore, Kim and many others think that Trump is crazy enough to do it. In order to win in this kind of face-off, your threat has to be credible and the weaker power has to believe that you mean it. The second reason is that what Kim and most dictators (including the Iranians) fear most is losing their regime and its control over their country. So they will take the more certain path to retain control, namely to back down in the face of superior power.
Another factor is that Kim has once again gone to the extreme in brinkmanship, and one reason why he was doing this is to be recognized as a major power on the world stage and also to be taken seriously by the US and to have a face-to-face meeting with the President of the USA. Now, we know that he may be lying, he has done it before (he promised Pres. Clinton he would denuclearize and yet he continued a secret program), and he may be exaggerating, but the only way to find out is to check and verify. That is what the Trump Administration will no doubt insist on. There have been accidents in the N. Korean program and it is believed the major missile test site has partially collapsed, so Kim may have to close it anyway. But, that’s why he must be put to the test. The outcome is too important to simply be dismissive.
While this meeting was happening in Korea, the leaders of the two great Asian superpowers, India and China, had a very significant meeting in Wuhan in China. The meeting was supposedly informal and there was a friendly atmosphere. Pres. Modi of India and Pres. Xi of China agreed to resolve difference between them diplomatically. This is good news since they still have a border dispute that led to a war in the 1960’s and has never been resolved. The significance of this largely unheralded meeting may turn out to be even greater than the significance of the meeting in Korea.