The world’s media, including The Economist, the Financial Times and our own Globe and Mail are all reporting the same story: “Kim Jong-un says North Korea has suspended nuclear, missile testing … [or] … North Korea pledges to suspend missile and nuclear testing,” there seems to be some doubt (something lost in translation?) about whether he has stopped testing or has just promised to stop testing. The Economist trumpets that “Kim Jong Un says he will stop testing missiles,” but cautions that “there was nothing in Mr Kim’s statement, as reported by the North Korean media, to suggest that the decision was a step towards relinquishing nuclear weapons. On the contrary, Mr Kim said that his country had “verified the completion of nuclear weapons” and that he would halt the tests because they were no longer necessary. Many analysts have been predicting such a moratorium ever since the North announced late last year that it had successfully completed construction of an intercontinental ballistic missile that could reach America.“
It’s a bit too early for the fanatics, American, Chinese or Korean, to be murmuring about Nobel Peace Prizes for any of Kim Jong-un, Donald Trump or Xi Jinping, but anything a reduces tensions in East Asia is a step in the right direction. Despite reports to the contrary, I do not believe that the withdrawal of US troops from South Korea is off the table … someone in Kim’s entourage may have said that but China will insist that the demand remains active, and North Korea will make it, again and again and again.
This current flurry of talks and announcements does not help Japan or other nations that provide harbours and landing rights for the USA and are within range of North Korea’s proven short range missiles. They all still have cause to fear Kim’s lunacy.
The world’s eyes will now be on President Trump to see if he will offer anything in return. Kim Jong-un has struck first, but President Trump need not, and in my view, should not offer anything in return … but the pressure to do something will be relentless. The eventual outcome, like this first announcement, is likely to be far, far less than everyone hopes. But, as Harold MacMillan (Super Mac) said, “Jaw, jaw is better than war, war.“