They both can claim to have forced the other—Donald Trump by pressing sanctions on North Korea, Kim Jong Un by scaring the Americans into thinking he might actually fire a nuclear-tipped missile at the U.S.
In the end, though, the proof will be in the talking, and nobody knows whether they’ll solve anything when they meet “by May,” as the White House confirmed, for a summit that may be the last chance for peace and real reconciliation on the Korean peninsula.
This may look like “a 180-degree turn-around,” said Kim Sung-bak, Hanyang University researcher and author of a major academic study on North Korea, but “now the danger looms larger than ever. If the summit fails, there’s no option but to go on a collision course.”
And for now, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is billing the summit as “talks” not negotiations. The diplospeak grew still more abstruse when a State Department official denied “negotiations were going on” but said, instead, “We’re talking about … an invitation by the leader of North Korea to meet face to face with the president of the United States.”