KOREA (KRT) – On June 12, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is scheduled to sit down for talks with U.S. President Donald Trump in Singapore for a high-stakes and unprecedented summit aimed at improving relations and discussing the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.
The peninsula has had a fraught history. In 1948, a few years after being freed from Japanese colonial rule in 1945, two separate and opposing governments were established – a communist one in the North and a democratic one in the South.
In 1950, when Communist North Korean troops launched a surprise attack across the 38th parallel into South Korea, war broke out. U.S.-led United Nations forces battled Chinese-and-Soviet-backed North Korea, killing three million soldiers and civilians and displacing five million.
Though an armistice was signed on July 27, 1953, and troops on each side withdrew two kilometres to form a Demilitarised Zone (DMZ), the two countries remain technically at war to this day.
North Korea calls July 27 its “Day of Victory in the Great Fatherland Liberation War” and blames U.S. military presence in the South for confrontation on the peninsula. The DMZ still remains the world’s most heavily-fortified frontier.
Despite international condemnation and sanctions, Kim Jong Un has more or less followed in his father’s footsteps, pushing to develop his country’s nuclear and missile weapon arsenal and, in particular, a nuclear-tipped missile capable of hitting the United States. The young Kim removed most of Pyongyang’s old guard during his comparatively short rule, replacing ageing generals and cadres with figures closer to his age.
In late 2017, he said the North had successfully tested a powerful new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that put the entire U.S. mainland within range of its nuclear weapons.
But North Korea’s ties with the outside world then seemed to take a sharp turn for the better. In early 2018, inter-Korean relations began improving, and in February athletes from the North and South marched under a unified flag at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
In the months after, Kim Jong Un held various meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping, South Korean President Moon Jae-in and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and pledged his commitment to the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula. In May, North Korea said it had dismantled its nuclear testing site at Punggye-ri.
Kim and Trump are tentatively scheduled to meet at 9 a.m. Singapore time (1 a.m. GMT) on June 12, according to The White House.