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EDITORIAL: North Korea Deal is Inching Closer

September 12, 2018

In contrast to the one-sided picture of a presidency in disarray as portrayed by the liberal left, the Trump administration can point to several successes during its time in the White House.

Rising GDP and low unemployment fueled by tax cuts, and less expensive health-insurance options stand out as the top achievements of the president’s domestic agenda, but it’s on the international front that a truly landmark accomplishment now seems within reach.

It would be a feat that none of Trump’s immediate predecessors could have imagined, since unlike the current president, they wouldn’t take the extra negotiating step he was willing to take.

And now, because of Trump’s unconventional brand of diplomacy, the denuclearization of North Korea - after some many years of frustrating diplomatic failures - actually may be at hand.

The breakthrough came in June, when President Trump agreed to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore, signaling a shift in both countries’ previous postures of insults and threats.

For the leader of the free world, this decision came with obvious risks. In a one-on-one meeting, Kim and his extreme communist regime would gain the international legitimacy it craved.

Had that been his only purpose, Trump would have been criticized - if not vilified - for having participated in a sham summit.

And though no concrete steps to rid the Korean Peninsula of nuclear weapons materialized from their talks, a personal rapport between Trump and Kim was established.

In the intervening months, neither side seemed able to build on the Singapore summit. However, Kim apparently hasn’t deviated from his desire to shed his nuclear weapons in exchange for economic assistance.

That was the message apparently conveyed in a letter Trump received from the North Korean leader earlier this week. In it Kim asked for a second meeting between the two to jump-start the denuclearization process.

This development comes as South Korea President Moon Jae-in prepares for his third summit with Kim next week in North Korea’s capital, Pyongyang. Along with the removal of nuclear weapons, South Korea seeks an agreement among the three principals to formally end the 1950-53 Korean War.

Since that conflict ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty, it left the U.S.-led United Nations forces, including South Korea, technically still at war with North Korea.

The president requested that Moon act as the chief negotiator between the U.S. and North Korea at his meeting with Kim, where South Korea’s president is expected to propose some steps toward denuclearization, along with U.S. security guarantees, including an official end to the Korean War.

Later this month, Moon will update Trump personally at a U.N. General Assembly meeting in New York. That should go a long way to determining whether Kim actually is serious about defusing the nuclear threat in the Koreas.

No doubt, there are still many obstacles to overcome, but it’s still substantial improvement over any prior attempts by previous presidents.

A nuclear-free Korea would not only reduce international tensions, it would also serve to show other nuclear-wannabe nations that far more can be gained through negotiation than confrontation.

For that, the Trump administration should have this country’s and all other peace-loving nations’ unqualified support.

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