What does the historic meeting between N. and S. Korea mean for the U.S.?


(CNN) – It was an extraordinary, dramatic walk and greeting. For the first time, Kim Jong-un stepped over the military demarcation line into South Korea.

Later, Kim talked about the gravity of that moment. “As I was stepping over it, I was thinking why did it take so long, 11 years, to get to this historic moment, and why was it so difficult to come here.”

Veteran Korea-watchers say it’s remarkable, given the tensions in this standoff not long ago, that this summit took place.

Former National Security Council official Jamie Metzl said, “Just the fact that the leaders of North Korea and South Korea are talking, and that nuclear and missile tests have stopped, for now, is a cause for optimism. The symbolism of this meeting is certainly important. Only a few short months ago, we were deeply concerned about an armed hostility breaking out on the Korean peninsula. Now that threat has receded.”

Kim and South Korean president Moon Jae-in set a goal of completely de-nuclearizing the Korean peninsula.

A high hurdle, experts warn, because that has two different meanings for both sides.

For the U.S. and South Korea, it means Kim completely dismantling his nuclear arsenal. Jung Pak with the Brookings Institute said, “For North Korea, they want the U.S. to remove its troops from the Korean peninsula, and to stop threatening North Korea with sanctions and to remove the sanctions.”

Kim and Moon also pledged to bring a formal end to the Korean War, which will also be challenging, analysts say because the U.S. and China would have to sign off on it and because with the North Koreans, none of these deals come without a price.

Heritage Foundation member Dean Cheng said, “The North Korean leadership doesn’t hold summits unless they think they will get something for it in return. In some cases, it’s literal cash. In other cases, it’s concessions and political benefits. So Kim Jong-un almost certainly is going to be pushing for an end to sanctions.”

But for now, the two leaders are basking in the imagery.

Among the moments which stand out, Kim’s departing limousine, flanked by running security agents and Kim speaking candidly about transportation in his country: “It’s more convenient to come via airplane. Our roads are uncomfortable. I know because I just came down here. I would greet you at the airport if you come via plane.”

Moments that may not have unfolded, some analysts believe, if Kim hadn’t been alarmed by President Trump’s volatility and his tougher stance on North Korea.

Cheng explained, “There’s been a lot more pressure placed on North Korea and I do think that without the pressure that he has been willing to place, it’s not at all clear that North Korea would have been willing to change its stance.”

Another dramatic moment came with Kim said that the two Koreas “will be reunited as one country”.

Analysts warn that for the North Korean leader, that means one country under his rule, something South Korea and the U.S. would never accept.

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