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BYU professor sees opportunity in historic US/North Korea summit

PROVO, Utah – With so much at stake in the meeting between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un, a professor at BYU said the summit will certainly go down in history.

“We have seen a lot of changes in the past six months, that maybe this time something is a little bit different,” said Dr. Kirk Larsen, who teaches Korean history at Brigham Young University. “There should be some dialogue. Most experts will say you need weeks, if not months, if you want a real agreement. We haven’t had that here.”

Still, Larsen said he will be watching coverage of the summit closely. It’s the first time in 70 years when the president of the United States has met with a leader of the North Korean regime.

Tensions have remained between the two countries since the Korean conflict in the 1950s.

“There is also hope that in all these negotiations, we could actually formally end the Korean War. The Korean War had an armistice in 1953, so a peace agreement would also improve stability and trust in the region,” Larsen added.

Larsen said any agreement between the two nations would be a big first step, in what has the potential to be a breakthrough of diplomacy. While he expressed doubt North Korea would completely abandon its nuclear program, he believed its possible they will make some concessions in exchange for the elimination of some sanctions to provide an economic boost.

While the eyes of the world will be watching the summit, Dr. Larsen also said two countries without a chair at the table will also feel the effects of the meeting.

“The other two most important actors are South Korea – and they are interested in having more peaceful situation in the regions – and also China, wanting to have its interests protected and having some sort of role in the ongoing negotiations as well,” he said.

Larsen would like to see the summit as more than a photo op for the two leaders and believes it could pave the way for more negotiations in the future.

“The North Korean problem is a difficult one, but I am hopeful that at minimum they can have a conversation and they can walk away not angry at each other and we can keep working on this issue,” he said.

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