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Trump, Kim and the risky path to dialogue

World media excited over the prospect of a first meeting between leaders of the two countries

Gulf News

US President Donald Trump’s sudden decision to accept North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s invitation for a face-to-face meeting within two months, the first between leaders of the two countries, hogged the headlines in newspapers across the world.

The New York Times said it has always encouraged Trump to pursue negotiations to resolve the danger of North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme, rather than threatening war. But Trump’s lack of knowledge on complex national security issues while sitting across the table from Kim is worrisome, the paper said in an editorial. “Maybe such an unorthodox summit meeting between two leaders with a flair for the dramatic will be hugely successful; it could also collapse in failure, making it a very high-stakes gamble for Trump.”

The Washington Post warned that Trump has to be well prepared for the talks, adding that the US president’s sudden decision to accept an unprecedented summit with Kim compounds the already high probability of failure. In an editorial the paper said: “The administration’s best course would be to use the coming weeks to hold preliminary talks with the Kim regime that make clear US expectations and place the summit on firmer ground. If it becomes evident that the North is unwilling to commit to a freeze on its nuclear and missile activities, or will make excessive demands in exchange, Trump can step back.”

North Korea’s sincerity on denuclearisation will be the key to success of the talks, the Korea Times said, adding that there should be no easing of pressure and sanctions until North takes concrete steps. “The North Korean nuclear crisis -- and the Korean question as a whole -- is entering an untrodden path… All will depend on what’s on the mind of Kim, and we may get to know of it in the next few months,” the paper commented in an editorial.

The Guardian expressed relief at the plans for a summit but said it is fraught with risks. “US allies are nervous: the risks are real. The prestige of both sides is invested in this meeting. It isn’t hard to imagine the men giving or taking offence, or Trump dropping US secrets or making a concession inadvertently, or goading the North in a post-summit tweet. Yes, jaw-jaw is better than war-war. But there is every likelihood that a summit will be at best a spectacle, and at worst could bring tragedy rather than peace one step closer,” the British paper wrote in an editorial.

Caution must be the watchword of any discussions, the Japan Times said, adding that the goal must be the rollback and eventual elimination of North Korea’s nuclear programme. “The North should make a concrete demonstration of its intention to denuclearise the Korean Peninsula. The suspension of all tests during the discussion period is a first step. Recognition that US-South Korea military exercises are a necessity and not a threat to the North would be another good sign. If the North uses those exercises as an excuse to resume testing then we can be sure that it is not sincere in its offer to talk,” the paper said in an editorial.

The Times of India, in an editorial, urged Washington to seize the opportunity to end the nuclear crisis. “Greater reconciliation between the two Koreas could also create peace dividends that deter conflict in east Asia as a whole. Kim, Moon and US President Donald Trump stand on the cusp of a historic moment that could change the fate of the Koreas and east Asia by bringing about a lasting peace. They must take the plunge.”