Historic Korean summit sets high bar for Trump

Historic Korean summit sets high bar for Trump
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Bitter foes for more than six decades, North and South Korea agreed Friday to “denuclearize” the Korean Peninsula — but the hard part is being left to President TrumpDonald TrumpMeghan McCain: Democrats 'should give a little credit' to Trump for COVID-19 vaccine Trump testing czar warns lockdowns may be on table if people don't get vaccinated Overnight Health Care: CDC details Massachusetts outbreak that sparked mask update | White House says national vaccine mandate 'not under consideration at this time' MORE.

Trump touted the inter-Korea summit on Twitter, saying that “good things are happening” but that “only time will tell.”


“KOREAN WAR TO END! The United States, and all of its GREAT people, should be very proud of what is now taking place in Korea!” he wrote in a second tweet.

But the declaration from South Korean president Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had no details on how denuclearization will be achieved, leaving it to Trump to negotiate the finer points of an agreement when he meets with Kim in May or June.

“This is step one of a thousand,” Harry Kazianis, director of defense studies at the Center for the National Interest, said of the inter-Korea summit. “It’s a good step one, don’t get me wrong, but it’s just a first step.”

The Kim-Moon summit Friday was filled with pomp, circumstance and images that would have been unfathomable just a year ago when the peninsula seemed on the brink of war.

Kim became the first North Korean leader to step foot on South Korean soil since the Korean War when he stepped over the raised military demarcation line to arrive at the summit. Moon also briefly entered North Korean territory when Kim invited him to step over the border for a moment.

The highly choreographed meeting even included a few jokes, with Kim telling Moon he wouldn’t interrupt his early morning sleep anymore, a reference to North Korea’s barrage of early morning missile tests last year.

The summit ended with a joint declaration that the two countries are committed to “the common goal of realizing, through complete denuclearization, a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula” and would pursue meetings with the United States and China “with a view to declaring an end to the [Korean] War and establishing a permanent and solid peace regime.”

“The two leaders solemnly declared before the 80 million Korean people and the whole world that there will be no more war on the Korean Peninsula and thus a new era of peace has begun,” the declaration said.

With one summit down, the pressure is on for the next historic meeting.

“This summit sets a high bar for Kim’s meeting with President Trump,” Abraham Denmark, director of the Asia Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, said in a statement. “Our Korean allies have high hopes, and expectations for a positive summit will be very high. And the fundamental question remains: whatever deal is struck, how do we implement and verify that North Korea is holding up its end?”

North Korea has made promises of denuclearization before. North and South Korea signed a joint declaration of denuclearization in 1992, and in 1994, North Korea signed the Agreed Framework with the United States. North Korea also tentatively agreed to give up its nuclear program as part of the Six Party talks in 2005.

Two previous inter-Korea summits in 2000 and 2007 also failed to make progress on the nuclear issue.

“It’s not clear why the results of this summit will be any different from the other two summits, which had zero consequences on peace and denuclearization,” said Robert Manning, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council.

Trump insisted Friday he won’t get tricked by North Korea.

“The United States has been played beautifully, like a fiddle, because you had a different kind of a leader,” Trump said during a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the White House. “We're not going to be played, OK? We’re going to hopefully make a deal. If we don’t, that’s fine.”

Moon is expected to brief Trump on the results of the inter-Korea summit ahead of Trump’s own meeting with Kim.

With the Korea summit failing to end in concrete deliverables, Kazianis said the Trump administration will need to reach out to Pyongyang to establish concrete steps on denuclearization, such as agreeing to intrusive nuclear inspections, ahead of Trump’s summit with Kim.

“Trump has to decide if there was enough progress to go forward with his summit,” Kazianis said of the results of the Korea summit. Without preconditions, “you’re just going to give Kim Jong Un the biggest photo-op of all time, and that’s not worth it on our side.”

Kazianis suggested newly minted Secretary of State Mike PompeoMike PompeoNoem to travel to South Carolina for early voting event Poll: Trump leads 2024 GOP primary trailed by Pence, DeSantis Pence v. Biden on China: Competing but consistent visions MORE, who recently traveled to Pyongyang and met with Kim, use his channels to establish preconditions for the Trump-Kim summit.

One advantage of the open-ended declaration is that Trump will not be boxed in when he meets with Kim. Several experts told The Hill prior to the Korea summit they were worried what concessions Moon, who has been intent on peace, might make.

“The ball’s in Trump’s court to do whatever he wants to do,” Manning said. “There’s nothing that happened [at the Korea summit] that gets in way of what the United States wants to do.”