The summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un is now history.
And it did indeed make history.
There have been talks between the two nations in the past, but for the first time a U.S. president met face-to-face and tried to establish some sort of peaceful understanding.
Did that happen?
There were some nice photographs. Trump and Kim, shaking hands, walking side-by-side. That was something both men wanted. The North Korean strongman sees it as putting himself and his country on an equal footing with the most powerful nation in the world. For President Trump, it showed leadership where no other president has gone. So it was a win for both in a way.
As to the talks? That's a bit sketchier.
The good news? Kim Jong-un agreed to work toward a complete denuclearization of North Korea. The rouge nation had, through pushing the limits of nuclear testing, brought itself within firing range of war with the U.S. That would not have been good for either side.
The U.S.. could easily defeat North Korea but the smaller nation could inflict some damage on South Korea, say, or our allies like Japan.
It would also bring us in conflict with the
much larger and more powerful China. So that was good. But "work toward" is not denuclearization.
What did we get? President Trump agreed to suspend at least some of the war games the U.S. conducts with South Korea, something the North and their allies in China have sought for years. No word yet on which games or how many exercises will be halted. South Korea, to say the least, is concerned. But the president did not agree to withdraw troops from South Korea, though he did say he wanted to bring soldiers home "at some point" but not now.
As for the longterm, we'll just have to wait and see. It's not too far a stretch to predict that one day President Trump, Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-In will all appear in the White House rose garden, shaking hands all around and announcing a new peace agreement. The world will cheer.
We wonder how many will remember back to Sept. 13, 1993, when President Bill Clinton stood beaming as Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin shook hands with Palestinian Liberation Army Chairman Yasser Arafat in celebration of the Oslo Accords peace agreement.
We know how that worked out.
With any luck things will go better this time around. It's important, though, that we recognize that Kim Jong-un is a dictator, focused on his own wants and needs. Perhaps he will come around. But dictators don't have a good track record on these things. We can be hopeful, but it's crucial to be vigilant.
President Trump can take credit for a historic summit. We hope he will eventually also be able to take credit for meaningful change on the Korean Peninsula.