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27 April 2018updated 24 Jun 2021 12:22pm

The global implications of Kim Jong Un’s meeting with South Korea’s President Moon Jae-In

The historic moment could be especially significant for US President Donald Trump and Japanese PM Shinzo Abe.

By Stephen Bush

In a historic moment, President Moon Jae-In of South Korea and Kim Jong Un have met today to discuss bringing an end to the state of war between North and South. The two men shook hands on the border, and in another historic moment, Kim beckoned Moon to step briefly over the border into the North, which he did.

The two have agreed a brief but significant list of forward steps: to work on a formal peace treaty, to “ease the sharp military tensions on the Korean peninsula”, to work on reunifying families split between North and South, and to cease propaganda activities against one another from 1 May. They will also establish a joint liasion group to work together on a variety of issues.

For Moon, it is a diplomatic coup. He triumphed in the presidential election in May of last year, offering social democratic measures at home and an easing of tensions with the North. From the joint all-Korea team at the Olympics, whatever happens next this moment ensures that he will be remembered as, at the least, a significant, albeit partial success in office. And it has big implications for two embattled politicians outside the peninsula: US President Donald Trump and Japanese PM Shinzo Abe.

Trump’s volatility could end up being the factor that scuppers everything, but if it’s not, then some kind of “win” in the coming talks between the United States and North Korea could lift his appalling approval ratings, perhaps helping the Republicans avoid wipeout in the November midterm elections and, at the least, will give him something he can say he has done that eluded his predecessors.

But for Abe, the accord may only deepen his woes. It’s strange to think that it’s only five months and five days since Abe cruised to victory in a landslide, helped by a divided opposition and his stunning popularity, driven in part by the sense he was tough enough to stand up to a militant North Korea.

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Now his reputation is in sharp decline as his government fends off a series of scandals, and his longterm political future is in doubt. That the ending of North Korea’s nuclear programme took a backseat today will add to the fear in Japan that their concerns will be cut out of the talks as Trump and Moon both search for a “win” in the talks.

It could be that this moment of historic breakthrough is one that shatters the last of Abe’s great strengths in the minds of Japanese voters.

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