Tribune Editorial: Talks offer hope for peace in Korea

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un signs a guest book watched by South Korean President Moon Jae-in, top, inside the Peace House at the Peace House at the border village of Panmunjom in Demilitarized Zone Friday, April 27, 2018. Their discussions will be expected to focus on whether the North can be persuaded to give up its nuclear bombs. (Korea Summit Press Pool via AP)

“The people of the world genuinely want peace. Some day the leaders of the world are going to have to give in and give it to them.”

Dwight D. Eisenhower

Ideally, the world should not sit still and allow the dictatorship in North Korea to amass an arsenal of nuclear weapons.

Practically, there is no reason why North Korean leader Kim Jong Un would ever consider agreeing to such a future as long as his nation is officially at war with South Korea and the United States and surrounded by American forces. Including, of course, nuclear weapons.

The last national leader to willingly give up his nukes was Libya’s Muammar Al-Gaddafi. And, as Kim well knows, it did not end well for him.

So the historic meeting of Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in is notable for the fact that the two leaders have officially set themselves a course of “denuclearizing” the Korean Peninsula.

There is much work to be done. There will be many opportunities for the whole process to go off the rails, for chicanery or lies or double deals or wan excuses for one side or the other to walk away or renege on the deal.

But the hope is that the leaders of both sides have come to heed not only Ike’s sage advice, but to grasp the fact that stockpiles of nuclear weapons on either side of the border constitute a hair-trigger clear and present danger to both sides and a great many other countries.

Kim is unlikely to admit publicly that the vast amounts of money he has poured into his weapons program are a major cause of his nation’s poverty — poverty that often amounts to starvation for much of his walled-off population. But he must know that his ability to remain his nation’s Dear Leader is threatened by their ongoing privations — no matter how many death camps he threatens them with.

The South’s Moon could have justified an approach that was less welcoming to his counterpart. Kim has earned no affection or respect for himself or his regime.

But, as a true leader, Moon knew that the display of respect and equality he and Kim performed the other day stands to go a long way toward tempting Kim to feel safe, safe enough to talk, to deal, to keep promises.

Next will come a big role for the United States, and its leader, President Trump. It is likely that our president will seek a large amount of the credit for any real deal, any real treaty, any real reduction in the number of nuclear weapons that threaten much of the world.

And we should give it to him, whether we think he deserves it or not. It will be worth it.