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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on June 4)

All News 07:03 June 04, 2018

Formal end to war
Trump-Kim summit should start peace process

U.S. President Donald Trump's meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's special envoy Friday has raised the possibility of formally ending the Korean War. It was first time Trump has mentioned such a possibility.

"We talked about ending the war," he said, after meeting with the North Korean envoy. "Historically it's very important but we'll see."

Terminating the war will have a symbolic meaning as the two Koreas are still technically at war because the war was concluded with a truce, not a peace treaty. Doing so will be a first step toward providing security assurances for the Kim regime in return for giving up its nuclear program.

The envoy, Kim Yong-chol, vice chairman of the Central Committee of the North's ruling Workers' Party, became the first Pyongyang official to visit the White House in 18 years. He hand-delivered a personal letter from Kim Jong-un to Trump. The content of the letter has yet to be disclosed, but Trump described it as "very nice."

The North is strongly pushing for an end to the war which could pave the way for a peace treaty not only with the South but also the U.S. And then the peace treaty might hopefully speed up diplomatic normalization between the two sides. After his second meeting with Kim Jong-un on May 26, President Moon Jae-in also expressed his hope the two Koreas and the U.S. will declare a formal end to the Korean War if the Trump-Kim talks produce successful results.

Moon is now preparing to join Trump and Kim in Singapore if the planned June 12 summit extends to one more day and they agree to declare the end of the war. Moon and Kim already agreed to do so during their April 27 summit at the truce village of Panmunjeom. Moon also reportedly proposed the idea to Trump when they met on May 22 in Washington, D.C.

President Trump might accept the idea to make the summit with Kim more dramatic. What's encouraging is that Trump gave the impression that he has _ to a certain degree _ eased his firm position on the complete and rapid denuclearization of the North. This change of his tone came after abruptly deciding to cancel the summit citing the North's bellicose rhetoric last week.

Trump appeared somewhat upbeat about the prospects of the unprecedented summit. The U.S. president also said, "Now we're going to deal and we're going to really start a process." His remarks indicate Washington and Pyongyang have managed to narrow their differences and agreed to achieve the North's denuclearization in return for security guarantees for the Kim regime and economic benefits.

However, we should not be too optimistic. This cautious approach was reflected in Trump's remarks that more than a single meeting would be necessary for the North to abandon its nuclear arsenal. It seems Trump has come to take a more realistic approach to denuclearization which must be a long and difficult process. With only nine days until the summit, it remains to be seen if Trump and Kim can start the long-overdue peace process.

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