The summit: Future will define level of history made

To accurately measure the level of history achieved this week in Singapore between leaders of the United States and North Korea, it’s necessary to look backward first.

The separation of North and South Korea has gone on for seven decades, to the detriment of both nations, their region and the world.

North Korea has been correctly labeled the “hermit kingdom” for its stubborn separation from the world. When its dictator leader Kim John Un met with President Donald Trump this week, it marked only his third trip outside his own country and his first to someplace other than nearby China.

Kim’s human rights violations toward his people, detained people from other countries and even his own family have been well documented. In the past year, he has expanded tests of his nuclear arsenal to the point where the region, some of it U.S. territories, was under a real threat and the day when those missiles could reach our nation’s mainland seemed to be only a matter of time.

Against that backdrop President Trump and Kim came out of their summit this week and signed an agreement to start the denuclearization of North Korea. Kim also signed on to peace on the peninsula and a recovery of POW and MIA remains of Americans from the Korean Conflict.

Any objective assessment would deem that result history-making.

The same objectivity requires us to add a necessary asterisk.

A long, detailed, air-tight verification process full of potential pitfalls awaits. The world will anxiously dissect details of that process for verifying that North Korea is denuclearizing.

Significantly, the United States did not agree to lift any sanctions this week. We suspect the lifting of economic sanctions is the carrot that will be slowly fed to North Korea as it proves it is truly denuclearizing.

We also suspect the sanctions that have economically strangled North Korea were the reality that brought Kim to the table in Singapore.

He is the leader of a country that is not part of the world community of nations in terms of economy or diplomacy. It will remain in that place unless it denuclearizes, which could in turn open economic doors to North Korea and its people, who are literally starving.

Skeptics – and no president has ever faced more of them – predictably will ask why there are not more human rights concessions coming out of this week’s meeting.

They will ask why there is not more definition on the denuclearization.

And frankly, they will ask why Trump would even grant a summit photo opportunity to a thug who has a history of horrible human rights violations and has subjected his people to a backward existence.

And we would ask them, what’s the alternative? Allow the continued buildup of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal, endangering the region and even the mainland United States?

Building the bridge to peace out of a history of despicable, threatening behavior usually means sitting down with leaders that the world would judge as undesirable.

That does not mean acts of the past are forgotten or forgiven.

And the sobering truth is that, given past behavior by Kim, Tuesday signified only a modest promise to start anew. Whether a new, peaceful path that includes North Korea in the world community of peaceful nations can be blazed will be determined, step by step, in the days, months and years ahead.

But that is the preferable path in contrast to a future of daily nuclear unrest in the region and perhaps the world.

It is a path that needs to be given a chance, albeit one marked with daily, credible monitoring.

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