President Donald Trump made a surprise announcement Thursday that North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un has come to the negotiating table to discuss nuclear disarmament — and news of their upcoming meeting this May left CNN stunned.
The announcement is seen as a historic development that would put the two leaders in the same room, the first such talks between the United States and North Korea in over 70 years.
It has political experts comparing Trump’s move to former President Richard Nixon’s historic diplomatic mission to China.
The news even caused CNN to admit that success would cement Trump’s legacy as “great.”
Even CNN is admitting Trump solving the North Korean crisis could make his presidency great. The far-left and the "resistance" must be in tears tonight. pic.twitter.com/2F67mTjb8X
— Paul Joseph Watson (@PrisonPlanet) March 9, 2018
It would have been an unthinkable suggestion just a few months ago, when tensions were at their peak — Trump was a “senile dotard” and Kim was “Little Rocket Man” — and the North was snapping off regular weapons tests in a dogged march toward its goal of a viable nuclear arsenal that can threaten the U.S. mainland.
In October, CNN was suggesting that Trump’s handling of North Korea was unstable.
“When I look at this … I wonder, are we at the point where folks on TV should be questioning the President’s stability?” CNN star Brian Stelter asked his guests on Oct. 1, 2017.
Just five months later, North Korea has been brought to the negotiating table — and CNN is suddenly singing a different tune.
North Korea has already made consolatory measures, too. South Korean national security director Chung Eui-yong, who credited Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign for the diplomatic opening on the nuclear issue, said Kim understands that routine U.S.-South Korea military drills “must continue.”
Kim, who had used his annual New Year’s address to warn the United States of a supposed nuclear button on his desk, has an economy that’s been battered by heavy international sanctions put in place by Trump.
Trump said the sanctions against the North will remain in place until there’s a deal.
Liberal South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who some believe has maneuvered the two leaders to this position, reflected the hope and relief many here feel about the planned summit when he declared Friday that it will be a “historical milestone” that will put the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula “really on track.”
Of course, there are obvious pitfalls Trump must avoid.
Some speculate that the North is trying to peel Washington away from its ally Seoul, weaken crippling sanctions and buy time for nuclear development. It has also repeatedly cheated on past nuclear deals after securing foreign aide.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in Djibouti on Friday that the decision to meet with Kim was made by Trump himself and resulted from a sharp change in the North Korean leader’s stance.
“What changed was his posture in a fairly dramatic way. It was a surprise to us that he was so forward-leaning,” Tillerson said. He said it would take “some weeks” before the timing of the talks is worked out.
North Korea appeared to confirm the summit plans. A senior North Korean diplomat at the United Nations in New York, Pak Song Il, told The Washington Post in an email that the invitation was the result of Kim’s “broad minded and resolute decision” to contribute to the peace and security of the Korean Peninsula.
Talks between Washington and Pyongyang have previously been overseen by lower-level experts, and have often bogged down, even when so-called “breakthroughs” have come, in the pesky details, such as allowing outsiders in to inspect North Korea’s nuclear compliance, for instance.
Now, the talks will start at the top. It’s anyone’s guess what Trump and Kim might decide in the highest-level meeting in what has been essentially a bloody, seven-decade standoff between their countries.
The announcement Friday followed weeks of softening ties between the Koreas, orchestrated by the South Korean leader, Moon, and culminating in a visit by Kim Jong Un’s sister to the South to observe the Olympics in Pyeongchang and then Chung’s trip to meet with Kim in Pyongyang.
Trump took office vowing to stop North Korea from its pursuit of a working long-range nuclear-tipped missile. He’s oscillated between threats and insults directed at Kim that have fueled fears of war, and more conciliatory rhetoric.
Koh Yu-hwan, a North Korea expert at Seoul’s Dongguk University, said the Trump-Kim meeting’s success could depend on whether the United States can accept a freeze of North Korean nuclear weapons, rather than a direct process to eliminate them.
But already Trump seemed to have bigger goals in mind: “Kim Jong Un talked about denuclearization with the South Korean Representatives, not just a freeze,” the U.S. president said in a tweet.
The Associated Press contributed to this article