His methods are unorthodox and depend on a personal relationship with an unpredictable, third-generation despot, but President Trump has effectively reset U.S. relations with North Korea again.
On his way home from the G20 summit in Japan, Trump paid an impromptu visit on dictator Kim Jong Un at the Demilitarized Zone, the uneasy dividing line between the two Koreas.
Trump shook hands with hermit kingdom’s leader and, with Kim’s permission, stepped across the border into a nation with which we have never made peace.
As the press jostled with North Korean security to witness the historic moment, Trump and Kim walked side by side 10 paces into the North then returned to Freedom House, where they met for about 50 minutes along with Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, and son-in-law Jared Kushner.
It was Trump’s third meeting with Kim, and, like the others, it was largely symbolic. Trump is the first sitting U.S. president to visit North Korea, and he has invited Kim to return the personal diplomacy with a visit to Washington — another symbol.
Such symbols can be important, but they aren’t an end in themselves. Trump’s ultimate goals have been more elusive so far. In March, Trump walked away from talks with Kim in Hanoi after North Korea insisted that the U.S. lift its effective sanctions but refused to eliminate its nuclear arsenal.
Whether the latest initiative can lead to a lasting peace will largely depend on what Trump and Kim’s lieutenants can accomplish, an assignment made much more difficult by the peculiar nature of Trump and Kim.
Whether the atomic version of “The Odd Couple” will lead to anything is only a matter for speculation at this point, but Trump has gotten the United States closer to what should be everyone’s goal — a nuclear-free, peaceful Korean peninsula — than a long line of his predecessors. He deserves full credit for breaking loose an inherited mess without surrendering anything of lasting value.
Mayor G.T. Bynum speaks during the 1921 Mass Graves Public Oversight Meeting.