While many commentators are gnashing their teeth about the folly of Donald Trump’s seemingly impulsive agreement to meet with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, your editorial “Trump to N. Korea? Perils and potential” (March 10) is a welcome exception. This past year of fiery rhetoric on all sides reminded the American public that the United States has a 70-year tortured, unresolved relationship with North Korea — one that many feared was on the brink of exploding into nuclear war. Yet the moment a dramatic opening to dialogue with Kim appeared, Korea watchers of all stripes stepped on the brakes — Kim can never be trusted, he will never give up his nuclear program, Trump has already conceded the upper hand simply by agreeing to meet.
As you point out, however, belligerents who are talking are not warring. Furthermore, North Korea has put a critical concession on the table that no one believed possible: the possibility that negotiations could lead to denuclearization. Of course, nothing is guaranteed, including Trump’s competence to, as he might put it, “make a deal.”
Yet naysayers fail to acknowledge that the promise of this opening is fortified by the extraordinary diplomatic skills of South Korea’s president, Moon Jae-In, evident in the North-South cooperation he cultivated during and after the Winter Olympics.
No one has more at stake, should mutual US-North Korean hostility continue to escalate, than Koreans on both sides of the Demilitarized Zone. The North and South have assumed leadership in taking the first steps toward reconciliation, and rightly so. We should support these efforts to heal inter-Korea differences, recognizing that success on this front would contribute immeasurably to productive US–North Korean dialogue.
The writer, a professor emeritus of psychology, is a visiting scholar at the Center for Human Rights and International Justice at Boston College.