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Photo courtesy of the office of State Senator James Sanders, Jr.
Photo courtesy of the office of State Senator James Sanders, Jr.

BY STATE SENATOR JAMES SANDERS, JR.

President Trump plans to visit North Korea in May and will speak with its leader Kim Jong-un.

This will be an important event because it would mark the first talk between a sitting US president and a North Korean leader.

It will also be a valuable opportunity for the Commander-in-Chief to try to convince the dictator of the Hermit Kingdom to dismantle his country’s nuclear arms program, but the two have a history of exchanging harsh words through the media and I am wary of the meeting having a successful or productive outcome.

CIA Director Mike Pompeo visited North Korea and secretly met with Kim over Easter weekend. This was supposed to be the pre-curser that laid the groundwork for what the White House anticipates will be a successful meeting with Trump and Jong-un.

In addition to denuclearization, Trump should be talking to Jong-un about getting the North Korean government to release the three American citizens that it is still holding in its custody – Kim Hak-song, Kim Sang-duk and Kim Dong Chul. The first two were detained in 2017 on suspicion of “hostile acts.” Chul was arrested in 2015 on espionage charges and is serving 10 years. North Korea is known for the extremely tough conditions of its prisons and labor camps.

Earlier this month, Trump appeared optimistic, at least publicly, telling the press that he and Jong-un. “are having very good discussions.” He also characterized North Korea’s intentions as honorable.” However, the White House has made it clear that the United States will continue to push North Korea towards denuclearization until it sees concrete action from the country and that it will not simply trust words from Jong-un.

Also on the line is the possible effect this meeting could have on discussions between North and South Korea to finally sign a peace treaty to end the Korean War, a conflict that involved the United States and ended 65 years ago, but lacked the formal document to make it official. Jong-un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in plan to meet soon at the demilitarized zone between the two countries. Trump said they had his blessing to discuss the end of the war, which I think was a good decision on his part.

Having said all of that, it will no doubt be an awkward situation for the two leaders when they finally meet in-person. Let us not forget that Trump has called Jong-un “rocket man” and tweeted that he “won’t be around much longer.”  In September of last year, Trump said the United States would “totally destroy” North Korea, if it were put in a position where it had to defend itself or an ally.

Jong-un responded by saying Trump will “pay dearly,” and “I will surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged US dotard with fire.” A dotard is defined as an old person, especially one who has become weak or senile.

Then there was the whole war of words at the beginning of 2018 regarding who had the bigger button, meaning who had the most heavily stocked nuclear arsenal with the potential for the most destruction. These are serious statements from two men that one would argue lack stability, and have the potential to allow their anger and a bruised ego to get the best of them. It is a scary situation for our country.

This meeting between Trump and Jong-un has the potential to prevent an arms race similar to what took place with the USSR during the Cold War or it could mark the first steps in a new era of peace, not only between the US and North Korea but between North Korea and South Korea. That could make the world a little safer, not only globally, but also locally and that is good for Southeast Queens.

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