Editorial | Reason to still be wary on N Korea

In a world fraught with nationalist fervour, where moderates are about as scarce these days as Polokwane polony on a supermarket shelf, who would have ventured a thawing of relations between the US and North Korea to the extent that both nations’ leaders have agreed to an historic meeting?

Even this newspaper has remained on guard despite backing the stunning detente that brought the divided Korean peninsula together for the 2018 Winter Olympics.

As welcome as that moment was, given the heightened war talk months before the sporting spectacle, there was nagging doubt about the sincerity of it all.

Would the goodwill survive the Olympics?

Indeed, it has, with North Korea’s dynastic dictator Kim Jong-un last week hosting a delegation from the South, where, it was reported, he expressed a wish to meet Donald Trump, a request since accepted by the US president, who tweeted about “the great progress being made” on the issue.

Officials say the summit will take place before the end of May, principally because Kim Jong-un raised the prospect of ditching his country’s nuclear ambitions should all threats to his nation’s sovereignty be removed. He has agreed to suspend missile tests as well.

In the meantime, Trump’s administration will keep the pressure on with sanctions, suggesting they, too, are not completely sold on North Korea’s overtures.

It is a long way from the personal insults both men traded and so begs the obvious question: why now?

Perhaps, by isolating the regime so effectively, the US has forced North Korea to buy time or genuinely seek to reset its domestic and global agenda.

Trump won’t want egg on his face, so until their meeting, the work that happens behind the scenes will make or break what Trump hopes will be “the greatest deal” of all.