This encounter has been a long time coming. Six years ago, two other Kims were due to be the ice-breakers. In what was possibly the most crucial recent intervention in international affairs by a private citizen, former US president Jimmy Carter flew to Pyongyang in June 1994 and persuaded Kim Il-sung to back away from confrontation over the nuclear issue – which, we now know, came perilously close to war.
He also brokered a summit between Kim and the then President of the South, Kim Young-sam. But on 8 July, two weeks before the meeting, the Great Leader died. Inept reaction in Seoul put relations back into their usual freeze.