Korean peace still possible



May 25, 2018 - 11:00 PM

President Donald Trump’s decision to cancel his summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un is, in itself, no cause for regret. Going ahead with a meeting that had little chance of success would have been a mistake, compounding errors the administration has already made on this issue. The cancellation is an opportunity to rethink, one the president and his advisers need to grasp.

Exactly why Trump won’t meet Kim in Singapore on June 12 is unclear. Perhaps he’s come to think that the North Koreans were never sincere about discussing a formula to abandon their nuclear-weapons program. In any event, Trump’s withdrawal avoids the risk that he might have struck a bad deal in pursuit of a moment’s applause — and that’s all to the good. The door to future negotiations hasn’t closed. North Korea says it wants to keep talking. What matters now is to get this process on to a more productive track.

This will take some doing. Trump’s approach up to now has weakened the U.S. position. If the U.S. had shown it was prepared to negotiate in good faith and the North wasn’t, it would now be in a stronger position. Instead, South Korea’s government may grudgingly agree with the North’s charge that the U.S. is not to be trusted. China will be confirmed in that assessment. Both countries may soon be urging a lifting of sanctions.

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