The situation on the Korean Peninsula is in such flux that people are struggling to keep up with it. On 8 March, President Trump made the decision to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un almost immediately after hearing the briefing of the South Korean special envoy’s delegation. Though details, like when and where remain undecided, the message is unmistakably clear—a meeting is a positive step and it is better sooner than later.
First, both sides need this meeting to happen. For President Trump, he needs a miracle to break the quandary he faces at home, and breaking the ice with North Korea is worth trying. For Kim, he needs to cement his leadership and foster a favorable external environment by improving relations with the US.
Second, both sides believe that work must be done to set the stage for the meeting. For the US, the upcoming joint military drill with South Korea has been deliberately watered down in duration and arms deployed to avoid provoking North Korea. On 20 March North Korea’s state news agency reported that US-North Korea relations had “positive momentum.”
Nevertheless, uncertainty still lingers. It remains to be seen how both sides address the confidence deficit, denuclearization, and security concerns, and whether a truce can be translated into a peace. What’s for sure is one summit alone will not solve all these problems. It will take persistent efforts to yield a détente.