Historic chance for on-off-on summit

The summit planned in Singapore between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un seems to be back on track, for now. Pyongyang, which had reacted harshly to comments made by some Trump administration officials, adopted a more mellifluent tone to Mr Trump's emotion-laced letter cancelling the June 12 talks, and this seems to have been enough to restore the meeting. While it may seem odd and unsettling that the fate, and future, of millions of people on the Korean peninsula, and perhaps Japan, could rest on such behavioural see-saws from two of the most mercurial leaders on the world stage, the best that can be said is to repeat the adage that it is better to jaw-jaw than war-war.

Officials from the North, having stopped for consultations in Beijing, are in Singapore where they have an appointment with senior White House aides to discuss the summit details. Meanwhile, the United States ambassador to Manila, an expert on Korean affairs, has crossed into the North for the toughest part of the talks - America's demand for complete, irreversible and verifiable denuclearisation. Mr Kim has sent word through his Southern counterpart, President Moon Jae In, that he stands by his commitment to work towards that goal. A twist in the tale has been added with Mr Moon himself said to be eyeing a trip to Singapore. Fast and fluid is the way things will be until the historic meeting takes place.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 30, 2018, with the headline 'Historic chance for on-off-on summit'. Print Edition | Subscribe