In a stunning diplomatic development, the leaders of North and South Korea met Friday at the demilitarized zone dividing their warring countries. Could this be the beginning of the end to the Cold War-era conflict that, on its worst days, raises the threat of nuclear war?

Get this: The day’s best analysis was also the simplest, tweeted by President Donald Trump, who wasn’t there at Panmunjom but played a key role in the breakthrough: “Good things are happening, but only time will tell!”

Yes, patience and skepticism are required. North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, comes from wily stock. His father and grandfather ran their country as a hermetically sealed kingdom. The goal was regime preservation at all costs, and their strategy was to keep North Korea isolated, and convince impoverished citizens they were under imminent threat of attack by the evil United States.

Through the decades North Korea also engaged in talks to end its hostile posture, but always the Kims would renege. So it was for the grandfather, Kim Il Sung, and the son, Kim Jong Il.

But what about the grandson and current leader? Kim Jong Un is the most dangerous of the bunch, having overseen North Korea’s final push to develop nuclear weapons that can fit onto ballistic missiles. Those warheads now appear capable of reaching parts of the U.S. mainland.

Trump faced up to the threat in a way his predecessors in office did not: He made it clear to Kim that there is a genuine red line that cannot be crossed: menacing the U.S. with nukes.

And now … the promise of peace talks. North and South Korea are embracing each other. Kim is set to meet Trump within a month or two. It would be the first meeting of a North Korean leader and sitting U.S. president. On the table would be a formal end to the Korean War and denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

This is where it gets tricky. The U.S. wants North Korea to end its nuclear program before receiving economic aid in exchange. It’s possible Kim thinks he’s put North Korea in its best-ever negotiating position and is willing to strike a deal. Or it’s possible he isn’t serious about abandoning his arsenal.

A third possibility: Trump’s tough talk has gotten in Kim’s head, while new sanctions have bitten hard.

Wherever this proceeds, give Trump credit for his role in making Friday possible.

The long list of future scenarios also includes a return to confrontation. Only the complete scuttling of the North’s nuclear and ballistic missile capacities will defang this dangerous adversary.

As Trump said, time will tell.

Editorial by the Chicago Tribune

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