Listen: Dr Michael Cohen in conversation with Stephen O’Doherty
It is perhaps the biggest question in international diplomacy for decades. Can the unorthodox, volatile US President and putative leader of the ‘free world’ and the authoritarian, hereditary leader of the most secretive country on earth strike a deal over North Korea’s nuclear ambitions?
After months of provocative missile testing by North Korea and threats of annihilation and insults like ‘Rocket-man’ from the US President, it seemed very unlikely there would ever be a meeting between Kim Jong-Un and Donald Trump.
However, this unconventional approach to diplomacy seems to have spurred a possible meeting between the two adversaries.
In a message delivered by South Korea on behalf of the North Koreans a meeting between the leaders is being negotiated. If it eventuates is another question entirely.
There is speculation about the timing of the offer to meet. Was it the thawing of relations with the west during the Winter Olympics?
Had North Korea satisfied itself that their displays of nuclear capability had been sufficient to make the west, especially the United States, sit up and take notice?
Both Kim Jong-Un and Donald Trump are characters with strong egos who are accustomed to getting what they want.
The stakes are huge and the timing, location and logistics of a meeting between the two leaders are complex before they even sit in a negotiation together.
If a meeting eventuates will personality and ego be kept in check long enough for a meaningful agreement to eventuate?
Dr Michael Cohen is a leading expert on the question of denuclearisation having authored various articles and books on the subject.
He is a senior lecturer at the national Security College, Crawford School of Public Policy at the Australian National University.