The prospects for peace on the Korean peninsula, the world’s last Cold War frontier, were brighter than they have been in years this week and that is good reason for cheer.
In a remarkable series of events in recent weeks, North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un met with South Korean President Moon Jae-In and pledged to end hostilities and work toward complete denuclearization.
That came even as President Donald Trump worked to set up a summit with Kim in May or early June.
The developments came after a year of saber-rattling and threats between the U.S. and North Korea after North Korea conducted ballistic missile tests and demonstrated for the first time ever that it had developed the capability to reach U.S. soil with a missile carrying a thermo-nuclear bomb.
Trump responded by threatening to rain down “fire and fury” and to “totally destroy” North Korea and followed up by leading a U.S. push for harsh trade sanctions in the UN and pressure on Chinese President Xi Jinping to rein in North Korea and it did so with trade cuts to its ally and neighbor.
President Trump was not shy about claiming credit for winds of peace that were blowing down the peninsula.
“What do you think President Trump had to do with it? I’ll tell you what. Like how about everything? And even President Moon says that and he’s been great,” Trump said to supporters at a rally in Michigan last weekend.
President Moon played down a suggestion he himself should be considered for the Nobel Peace Prize and said, “President Trump can take the Nobel prize. The only thing we need is peace.” That sentiment was echoed at Trump’s Michigan rally where supporters chanted “Nobel, Nobel, Nobel.”
And in the wake of the meeting between Moon and Kim work began along the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas to remove the propaganda speakers that have blared music and propaganda across the contested border for more than 60 years.
But before we get carried away on these hopeful winds — and we agree that if Trump brings an agreement off in his summit with Kim this spring he would indeed be deserving of a Nobel Peace Prize for dampening the threat of nuclear destruction in the world — there remains a lot of heavy lifting to do.
The key to the May/June meeting on de-nuclearization will be verification and that will be a thorny issue to settle. Skeptics point out that the agreement between Moon and Kim is similar to earlier pledges made in 2000 and 2007 which went unfulfilled.
Will this time be different? We hope that is the case. But, until the hard work of negotiations gets done and the pledges on both sides are followed up on — and verification is assured — it is too early to be passing out Nobel Peace Prize accolades.
Right now is not the time to be giddy; right now is the time to giddy-up.