Singapore summit paves path for a hopeful beginning

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There’s a new hope in the world today, a hope that we are safer and more united and that more than half a century of conflict that has separated Koreans under different governments is closer to a joyous ending.

President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un penciled in an agreement and shook hands Tuesday on what could become a groundbreaking treaty to help improve nuclear stability in the world.

If Kim follows through with his commitments to destroy his arsenal of nuclear weapons — his predecessors haven’t followed through on similar promises in the past — then Trump will have in 2018 accomplished important first steps toward peace and human rights in a world that has been roiled in recent years by violence and unrest.

“The past does not have to define the future,” the president said at a news conference after the two leaders signed their agreement. “Yesterday’s conflict does not have to be tomorrow’s war. As history has proved over and over, adversaries can become friends.”

Negotiations between Trump and Kim took slightly more than five hours. The agreement they signed was barely longer than one page. And, as The Washington Post reported, it was notable for its lack of details.

The Post said Kim made no specific commitment to relinquish his nuclear arms and ballistic missiles or a timeline in which he would do so, only committing to abide by an agreement he had made in April during a summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

There was no mention of North Korea’s brutal record for human rights or the economic sanctions the United States had imposed, which Trump said would remain in place until disarmament had been established. The rest, he said, would be taken up by aides to both men.

Other details were victim to Trump’s schedule, the president said: “Because there’s no time. I’m here one day. ... But the process is now going to take place.”

Trump said Kim would allow the return of remains of American service members lost in North Korea during the Korean War in the early 1950s. And Trump agreed to end joint military drills with South Korea, a concession that appeared to surprise many, including South Korea and Japan.

“We overcame all kinds of skepticism and speculations about this summit,” Kim said through an interpreter, “and I believe that this is good prelude for peace.”

Safety and national security are the most notable victories in this process. To keep weapons of mass destruction from irresponsible and reactionary hands is critical, even the very reason the United States invaded Iraq for the second time.

That decision was based on a legend. This time we hope that we can write a new legend that endures into the future.

Another Republican president, Ronald Reagan, changed the world in 1989 with these words: “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down that wall!”

Russian Premier Mikhail Gorbachev did tear down the wall across the middle of Berlin and unite German families and friends who had been forced apart for two generations.

We can only hope that this brief summit in Singapore can lead to such openness and unity on the Korean peninsula.