June 30th, 2019
Regardless of what happens with the currently-ongoing closed-door discussions between Chairman Kim Jong Un and President Trump, today’s meeting is still of immense significance. The two leaders both made history – Marshal Kim Jong Un was the first North Korean leader to step into South Korea since the Korean War, and Trump is the first sitting US president to enter North Korea. President Trump has also invited Kim to visit the White House – whilst this is unlikely to occur, it’s still historic.
The meeting appears to have been extremely impromptu, following a tweet made by President Trump before his trip to the DMZ. It’s very unusual for the DPRK to engage in anything on a political level without significant pre-planning and as such today’s meeting indicates an unexpectedly high level of trust between Marshal Kim and President Trump. South Korean President Moon sitting out for the bilateral meeting is a clear sign of just how committed Moon is in attempting to bring about peace on the Korean peninsula. It’s also possible that President Moon is willing to sacrifice prestige and face criticism by media at home in order to maintain the leading role in mediating US-DPRK relations, after the recent bilateral meetings between Kim Jong Un and Xi Jinping, and the G20 meeting with Trump and Xi.
UPDATE from the end of the meeting: Whilst nothing of consequence was decided today, the decision to establish new teams and hold a meeting within the next two to three weeks, indicates a willingness for both sides to potentially shift from their stalemate positions in Hanoi. The sudden nature of the meeting also points to the possibility of more meetings and communication happening between Kim and Trump in the future. This may become a fast track to help overcome diplomatic impasse in the future. For both Kim and Trump the meeting also helps bolster their images as statesmen; a quality that President Trump has faced criticism for lacking and Marshal Kim has yet had opportunities to test.