Trump-Kim talks inspire cautious optimism, skepticism

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

BERLIN (AP) — While South Koreans cheered with hope and China saw an opening to discuss lifting sanctions on North Korea, some countries in Europe and the Mideast cautioned Tuesday that it was premature to judge U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's summit a success.

Many have applauded the recent months of denuclearization diplomacy between North Korea and the U.S. after a year of mounting tension, threats and name-calling. Hopes for peace on the long-divided Korean Peninsula, however, remained tempered by the many failed attempts in the past.

"The United States and North Korea have been in a state of antagonism for more than half a century," Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said. "Today, that the two countries' highest leaders can sit together and have equal talks, has important and positive meaning, and is creating a new history."

At a train station in Seoul, the South Korean capital, people cheered and applauded as televisions screens broadcast the Trump-Kim handshake live.

"I really, really hope for a good outcome," Yoon Ji, a professor at Sungshin University in Seoul, said. "I am hoping for denuclearization and a peace agreement and also for North Korea's economy to open up."

Leaders in Europe also responded positively to seeing Trump and Kim sit down together, but welcomed the development with waitand-see skepticism.

"We know that crisis management and international policy are a marathon," Andrea Nahles, the leader of Germany's Social Democrats, said. "To be honest, I can't judge how far what was agreed today will translate into reality."

Trump's unilateral decision last month to pull out of the landmark deal to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons has left the other nations involved scrambling to preserve the pact.

With that as a backdrop, European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini told EU lawmakers in Strasbourg, France that the U.S.-North Korea summit proved that diplomacy was the right path to follow.

"The diplomatic track is often challenging, is often the most difficult one to be followed, but it is the rewarding one, and needs to be sustained over time," Mogherini said. "It was the same track that the international community and the European Union followed for over a decade with Iran."

In a printed statement, she mentioned neither Trump nor Kim by name, but thanked South Korean President Moon Jae-in for his leadership in creating the "positive developments in inter-Korean relations" for the summit to build upon.

For his part, Moon said he "could hardly sleep" in anticipation of the meeting and expressed hope for "complete denuclearization and peace."

Iran, on the other hand, noted that not only had Trump pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran, but irritated Group of Seven leaders by agreeing to sign their closing summit declaration, then tweeting while on his way to Singapore that he had changed his mind.

"We are facing a man who revokes his signature while abroad," Iranian government spokesman Mohammad Bagher Nobakht, according to the semiofficial Fars news agency.

Russia, another backer of the Iran nuclear deal, also was skeptical.

"Trump's words that the process of denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula will start 'very, very soon' is more of a wish than a fact," Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the upper house of Russia's parliament, wrote on his Facebook page.

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