So says South Korean president Moon Jae-in, anyway, who has a big investment in pushing forward on the peace process with Kim Jong-un. After Donald Trump canceled a visit by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Pyongyang, the assumption was that the peace process started by the nearly impromptu summit between the two leaders had failed. Not so, says Moon, who claims that Kim has recommitted to denuclearization — and to complete it in the next two years:
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un signaled a willingness to revive stalled nuclear talks, with South Korean officials saying he wanted to “achieve denuclearization” during U.S. President Donald Trump’s first term.
Kim told visiting South Korean envoys Wednesday he was ready to accept “stronger measures” to restrict his nuclear program and wanted a declaration with the U.S. to formally end the Korean War, the officials said. A separate account by North Korean state media said Kim told the delegation that he wanted progress on denuclearization, without mentioning the U.S. or Trump.
“He wanted to end some 70 years of animosity between North Korea and the United States and achieve denuclearization within President Trump’s first term,” South Korean National Security Office head Chung Eui-yong, who led the one-day trip to Pyongyang, told reporters Thursday in Seoul. South Korean President Moon Jae-in also agreed to meet Kim in the North Korean capital on Sept. 18-20, the first such trip in 11 years.
Kim also wants everyone to know that he has the deepest respect for Donald Trump. Or at least Moon wants Trump to know that:
“Chairman Kim emphasized that he has never made a negative comment about Trump,” Chung Eui-yong, South Korea’s top national security adviser, said at a media briefing on Thursday.
Kim also reaffirmed his nation’s commitment to “actively engage in denuclearization if the countermeasures are taken simultaneously” and “expressed frustration that his goodwill is not being properly delivered to the international community.”
That prompted a predictable response from the Tweeter in Chief:
Kim Jong Un of North Korea proclaims “unwavering faith in President Trump.” Thank you to Chairman Kim. We will get it done together!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 6, 2018
Whether or not this represents progress, it does show that it’s still an open possibility. The canceled trip wasn’t the first time Trump pulled that particular string; he also ‘canceled’ the summit before Moon made arrangements to put it back on track, and Pyongyang pulled back on its rhetoric. Trump has demonstrated that he knows how to play the Kim regime’s game on public posturing. (And Kim clearly understands how to butter up Trump, too.) That alone won’t get us to an agreement and an end to the nuclear threat, but it’s at least a step in the right direction.
Besides, Kim may have little choice but to get what he can as fast as possible. According to Seoul, Kim admitted that his facility for nuclear testing has become permanently unavailable:
Kim stressed to Chung that North Korea’s nuclear tests have become permanently impossible at Poongye-ri as two-thirds of its tunnel is destroyed. The dismantled missile-engine test site at Tongchang-ri is North Korea’s only test facility.
This means North Korea “will completely halt long-range missile tests in the future, and is a very practical and significant step,” Chung added.
At any rate, reports of the death of this diplomatic endeavor seem premature, as do reports of its success.