With their second summit fast approaching, speculation is growing that U.S. President Donald Trump may try to persuade North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to commit to denuclearization by giving him something he wants more than almost anything else: an announcement of peace and an end to the Korean War.
Such an announcement could make history. It would be right in line with Trump's opposition to "forever wars." And, coming more than six decades after the fighting essentially ended, it just seems like common sense.
But, if not done carefully, it could open up a whole new set of problems for Washington.
Here's why switching the focus of the ongoing talks between Pyongyang and Washington from denuclearization to peace would be a risky move — but could pay off big when the two leaders meet in Hanoi on Feb. 27-28.
The Korean Peninsula was divided at the 38th parallel after World War II, with the U.S. claiming a zone of influence in the south and the Soviet Union in the north. Within five years, the two Koreas were at war.
Though the shooting stopped in 1953, the conflict ended with an armistice, essentially a cease-fire signed by North Korea, China and the 17-nation, U.S.-led United Nations Command that was supposed to be replaced by a formal peace treaty. But both sides instead settled ever deeper into Cold War hostilities marked by occasional outbreaks of violence.
The conflict in Korea is technically America's longest war.
The U.S. maintains a heavy military presence in South Korea to counter what it says is the North's intention to invade and assimilate the South. It has also implemented a long-standing policy of backing economic sanctions.
Trump escalated the effort to squeeze the North with a "maximum pressure" strategy that remains in force.
A combination of that strategy and the North's repeated tests of missiles believed capable of delivering its nuclear weapons to the U.S. mainland are what brought the two countries to the negotiating table.
WHY KIM WANTS A TREATY
Getting a formal peace treaty has been high on the wish list of every North Korean leader, starting with Kim Jong Un's grandfather, Kim Il Sung.