Trump-Kim meeting: For show or for peace?
'Reality show theatrics' worth it if they lead to working-level talks, say analysts
SEOUL: US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's meeting in the Korean Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) produced a barrage of headlines and images.
But it left analysts questioning whether it was a small step for publicity or a giant leap for peace.
The impromptu encounter saw Mr Trump briefly crossing over the demarcation line - becoming the first sittingpresident to step into Pyongyang's territory.
It came months after their second summit in Hanoi broke down over what the nuclear-armed North would be willing to give up in exchange for sanctions relief.
After around an hour of talks in Panmunjom - the truce village in the DMZ that has divided the peninsula since the two sides and their allies fought each other to a stalemate in 1953 - Mr Trump emerged to say the two would begin working-level talks in the next few weeks.
He also invited Mr Kim to Washington "at the right time", he added.
It was a more substantive outcome than many had expected after Mr Trump issued his Twitter invitation to Mr Kim and said the meeting could be as short as two minutes to simply "say hello".
But analysts questioned whether it would be enough to create sustainable progress in a process that has already been running for years and has regularly become bogged down.
Associate Professor of political science Vipin Narangat the Massachusetts Institute of Technology said the "reality show theatrics" of Panmunjom were worth it if they led to effective working-level talks.
"If not, then we will keep tuning into this same show for the next 15 months," he added.
The meeting gave both leaders "a good reason to seek dialogue again", said Mr Hong Min, a senior researcher at the South's state-run Korea Institute for National Unification.
But Mr Mintaro Oba, a former State Department official in the Obama administration, called it a "temporary burst of momentum".
"We are engaged in a sort of 'defibrillator diplomacy' with North Korea: Keeping the process alive through an occasional injection of energy, but never treating the underlying disease," Mr Oba tweeted.
For both participants, the meeting had its uses.
With a presidential election next year, Mr Trump's dramatic steps into North Korea will be a "useful tool" on the campaign trail, professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul Koo Kab-woo said.
For its part, the North has long wanted to be treated as an equal to the US. It will welcome yesterday's symbolism, said former CIA analyst Soo Kim. - AFP