After months of saber-rattling, the U.S. president accepted an invitation late Thursday to meet directly with the North Korean leader to discuss the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.
“President Trump greatly appreciates the nice words of the South Korean delegation and [South Korean] President Moon,” the White House said in a statement Thursday evening. “He will accept the invitation to meet with Kim Jong Un at a place and time to be determined. We look forward to the denuclearization of North Korea.”
Shortly after, a tweet from Trump himself:
Kim Jong Un talked about denuclearization with the South Korean Representatives, not just a freeze. Also, no missile testing by North Korea during this period of time. Great progress being made but sanctions will remain until an agreement is reached. Meeting being planned!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 9, 2018
The invitation arose from a meeting between the South Korean and North Korean delegations in Pyongyang Monday, the South Korean national security director Chung Eui-yong told reporters outside the White House Thursday. The diplomat had just briefed Trump and other U.S. officials on the invitation.
Until very recently the prospect of denuclearizing North Korea was not on the table. But starting with a charm offensive during the Winter Olympics in South Korea, the North has signaled a sharp turn toward diplomacy.
One analyst, however, pointed out that the U.S. has had warming periods with North Korea in the past that led only to periods of conflict. Another analyst, speaking on CNN, however, pointed out the similarities between North Korea’s recent moves and the “Ping-Pong diplomacy” that led to warming relations between the U.S. and China in the early 1970s.
While the situation could break in a number of ways, it’s hard to see today’s development as anything but hopeful. The possibility of nuclear war has increased dramatically over the past year as North Korea has hit the gas on its nuclear weapons program, and as the U.S. has left open military options for halting it.
ICAN (International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons) was quick to issue a response to the developments Thursday night. “ICAN commends South Korea’s leadership in achieving historic dialogue between the U.S. and North Korea, which is the only pathway to nuclear disarmament in the face of fire and fury,” said the group’s executive director Beatrice Fihn.