Reality is sometimes beyond our imagination. Last year when Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un were involved in a war of words sharply criticising each other, we never imagined that the two leaders would ever be able to meet face-to-face and talk about opening a new chapter for the two long-term adversaries.
During the 12 June summit, the first ever between a sitting US president and a North Korean leader, Trump and Kim put forward their first steps on dismantling the 70-year old Cold War regime in Korea since the Peninsula was divided in 1948. This summit, accompanied by the Panmunjom Declaration in April between the two Koreas, signals a great geopolitical shift in Northeast Asia.
On a practical level, the joint statement of the Trump-Kim summit remains somewhat vague because it does not contain concrete arrangements or a roadmap on denuclearization and security guarantees. However, such a meeting between the top leaders from Washington and Pyongyang can be one of the most effective confidence-building measures which would allow the implementation of the agreement. Trump also appears to accept the necessity of a phased approach toward denuclearisation, instead of demanding Pyongyang to immediately hand over or dismantle all their nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles. This is at least a positive signal for the time being.
Both Trump and Kim need to make this deal a success for domestic reasons. To succeed, more concrete work needs to be done at the working level, and South Korea and other regional powers should be appropriately informed and consulted. In this sense, the coming weeks or months will be critical to see how sincere and ready the two countries are to bring peace to the Korean Peninsula.