Peace with Kim – the least bad option

Kim Jong-un © Getty images
Kim: promising concessions

Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, has offered to “permanently dismantle” his country’s main nuclear site, but only if the US reciprocates, possibly by declaring a formal end to the 1950-1953 Korean War, says Choe Sang-Hun in The New York Times.

He offered the concession during a three-day summit in Pyongyang with the South Korean president, Moon Jae-in. The leaders also agreed to open rail links and jointly bid for the 2032 summer Olympics, says Benjamin Haas in The Guardian. Kim added that he would visit Seoul; a first for a North Korean leader.

Kim’s offer may not amount to much, says Richard Lloyd Parry in The Times. Yes, “the dismantling of a missile testing site in front of international inspectors would be spectacular” – but Kim has his missiles and “doesn’t need the site any more”. His promises about the Yongbyon facilities are “similarly ambiguous”.

Moon’s embrace of Kim is causing “disquiet” within the US administration, among South Korean conservatives and in Japan, America’s other ally, says Simon Denyer in The Washington Post. Moon’s view is that it is “only by building trust” that Kim will be persuaded to denuclearise.

This contrasts sharply with the “maximum pressure” stance of the Trump administration, which is that Kim must take action before US largesse can “kick in”. Moon’s cheerleading efforts also “often sidestep the fact that Kim still leads the world’s most repressive totalitarian regime”.

Yet Trump, like Moon, also appears to be betting that the “corpulent dictator” is a reformist, says Gideon Rachman in the Financial Times. Last week he accepted an invitation to another summit with Kim, proclaiming on Twitter that they would “prove everyone wrong”. Given the prospect of war between two nuclear-armed states just last year, it is no wonder that Moon is doing all he can. It may “be a naïve, long-odds bet”. But it is “preferable to the alternative.”