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Digital Subscriptions > Newsweek International > 13th July 2018 > A Gambler for Peace

A Gambler for Peace

SOUTH KOREA’S PRESIDENT, MOON JAE­IN, BROUGHT TRUMP AND KIM TOGETHER. DID HE SET THE STAGE FOR ENDING A WAR—OR BEGINNING ANOTHER?

WORLD

TABLE GAMES After Trump briefly canceled a summit with North Korea, Moon, left, and Kim, right, held their own meeting on May 26 to try to salvage nuclear talks.

When THE WORLD FIRST learned of a historic summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the news didn’t come from a presidential tweet or a state-run media announcement. It came from a bespectacled South Korean official standing in the darkened driveway of the White House on a cool March evening.

In an impromptu appearance, Chung Eui-yong, South Korea’s national security adviser, told the assembled press corps he had just come from a meeting with Trump. That week, Chung had flown to Washington from Pyongyang, where Kim had asked him to hand-deliver a personal letter to Trump. Kim, he told the media, had invited the American president to meet face-to-face to discuss an end to North Korea’s nuclear program. And Trump had agreed.

Reporters were stunned. At the time, many people feared war. Trump had threatened to rain down “fire and fury” on North Korea, and Kim responded with his own threats to incinerate Washington with one of his long-range nuclear missiles. Now, Chung was announcing the first-ever meeting of a sitting U.S. president and a North Korean leader. “Along with President Trump,” he said, “we are optimistic about continuing a diplomatic process to test the possibility of a peaceful resolution.”

It’s not clear why Trump gave Chung the job of publicizing the summit. But it was fitting that a South Korean official got to make the announcement. More than any other player in this diplomatic drama, South Korean President Moon Jae-in was most responsible for the historic meeting. Acting as mediators between Trump and Kim, he and his top aides had spent months encouraging, cajoling and flattering the two leaders into accepting the conditions that made their denuclearization talks possible.

For Moon, the Singapore summit was a diplomatic and political triumph. A joint statement reaffirmed the North’s commitment to “work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula” and gave U.S. guarantees of security to North Korea. Trump and Kim also pledged to begin high-level negotiations to resolve their differences. In the wake of the meeting, polls showed Moon enjoying his highest approval ratings since his election in May 2017.

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About Newsweek International

OVER THE MOON When the world first learned of a historic summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the news didn’t come from a presidential tweet or a state-run media announcement. More than any other player in this diplomatic drama, South Korean President Moon Jae-in was most responsible for the historic meeting. Acting as mediators between Trump and Kim, he and his top aides had spent months encouraging, cajoling and flattering the two leaders into accepting the conditions that made their denuclearization talks possible. For Moon, the Singapore summit was a diplomatic and political triumph.In the wake of the meeting, polls showed Moon en-joying his highest approval ratings since his election in May 2017.