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A Trump-Kim Summit?

Trump has reportedly accepted [1] an invitation to meet Kim Jong-un:

North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, has invited President Trump to meet for negotiations over its nuclear program, an audacious diplomatic overture that would bring together two strong-willed, idiosyncratic leaders who have traded threats of war.

The South Korean official, Chung Eui-yong, who conveyed the invitation told reporters that Mr. Trump had accepted it and would meet with Mr. Kim by May.

The U.S. should be willing to test North Korea’s offer to talk, but given the administration’s misguided fixation on demanding denuclearization it’s not clear what the point of Trump-Kim meeting would be. If Trump is accepting the invitation simply to repeat the same unrealistic demand, a high-profile meeting isn’t likely to achieve anything. If the two sides approach this meeting with very different expectations of what they will be negotiating, it will be much harder to make any progress. The initial comments from the White House suggest that the administration doesn’t think anything has changed:

change_me

That raises the question: if the meeting is to be a negotiation, what is the U.S. prepared to offer North Korea? Sanctions relief? A security guarantee? Something else? All of the above? If the administration remains wedded to its maximalist position that North Korea has to give up everything first before any offer is made, any negotiation will break down almost as soon as it begins. The White House says “we look forward to the denuclearization” of North Korea as if they actually think that is going to happen. How will they react when it dawns on them that this will never happen?

The fact that this was all originally announced by a South Korean official rather than in a joint statement from the U.S. and South Korea is odd. Why didn’t the announcement first come from the White House or State Department? That suggests that the administration may just be humoring their South Korean guests, and they aren’t going to follow through on the commitment to meet. Vipin Narang commented on this tonight:

There appears to be have been little or no coordination inside the administration before committing publicly to this meeting. Following the withdrawal of Cha’s nomination and Yun’s resignation, the administration has few people with the relevant experience to prepare for such a meeting if it actually takes place. A May meeting doesn’t leave much time for an understaffed administration to get ready if they are going to take this seriously. Successful negotiations usually require significant preparatory work by lower-level officials over a longer period of time before a summit of this kind takes place, and there won’t be enough time or opportunities for that in this case. Once again, the Trump administration’s disdain for diplomacy and diplomats is catching up with them.

14 Comments (Open | Close)

14 Comments To "A Trump-Kim Summit?"

#1 Comment By CharleyCarp On March 8, 2018 @ 8:28 pm

My guess is that the President looks for (and finds) an excuse to ‘postpone’ the meeting and blame North Korea.

#2 Comment By Frank Williams On March 8, 2018 @ 10:33 pm

Trump’s earlier tweet was more manic. He wrote: “Kim Jong Un talked about denuclearization with the South Korean Representatives, not just a freeze. Also, no missile testing by North Korea during this period of time. Great progress being made but sanctions will remain until an agreement is reached. Meeting being planned!” That is Trump at his stupidest, most impulsive worst. He thinks Kim has caved to his bullying and that there will be a great parade for him in Washington as all of Kim’s testing sites collapse in controlled demolitions simultaneously. While the US will keep all its nukes and troops in South Korea to take out Kim after a “decent interval,” as they say in the CIA. When Trump hears Kim has demands, he’ll say he was deceived, and will renew his threats of war,

#3 Comment By Jay C On March 8, 2018 @ 10:38 pm

Seriously, Mr. Larison: do you really think that lack of preparation/expertise/timeframe in arranging this “summit” would be any significant off-putting factors to this clownshow of an Administration?
Especially as, so far, the main reaction in the US has been a near-Pavlovian approbation by the right-wing media (and some of their “mainstream” cousins) as “proof” that Trump’s “tough” policy wrt to North Korea has somehow “worked”, and his numerous critics are now somehow “proved” wrong.
So the floating of the notion of a “NK summit” has already accomplished what are probably the Administration’s main goals:
1. Getting headlines/publicity.
2. Looking “tough”.
3. Distracting the media from the seeming endless parade of tawdry Trump scandals.

I’m sure that actually doing something about tensions on the Korean Peninsula is on the list: but probably way down.

#4 Comment By swb On March 9, 2018 @ 10:58 am

Kim gets some propaganda pictures showing how easily he manipulated Trump and everyone else gets to laugh at Trumps gullibility. Pretty much a win win situation.

Wait, if you are actually someone that knows anything about foreign policy in that area, you are just going to be embarrassed as Trump demonstrates his incompetence at negotiation.

I can hardly wait.

#5 Comment By rayray On March 9, 2018 @ 11:37 am

NK has been offering to meet with American Presidents for years…sitting as equals face to face with an American President is a gigantic win for him domestically as well as confers him legitimacy on the world stage.

And Kim has gotten what he wants w/o promising anything approaching denuclearization. I’m a big fan of diplomacy and I applaud even this clunky version of it…but so far, if you care about such things, Kim is winning.

And while I agree with @CharleyCarp’s comments above, also worth noting that taking the production on the road to North Korea is going to give Trump’s show huge ratings. Huge.

#6 Comment By Egypt Steve On March 9, 2018 @ 1:28 pm

I think that what will happen here is what happened with DACA and gun-safety negotiations. Despite his fixation on “toughness,” Trump will probably actually be willing to give away the store in face to face discussions — I wouldn’t be surprised if he is willing to agree to dramatic US force reductions in Korea, for example, and substantial development aid to the North — paying out as much or more as the hated Obama Iran deal gave to Iran. But he will then walk everything back as soon as he is back surrounded by Republican congressional hawks and other establishment security types.

#7 Comment By One Guy On March 9, 2018 @ 1:37 pm

If they do meet, Trump will claim to have done the greatest thing any human has ever done.

And if (more likely) they don’t meet, Trump will call Kim silly names-which in Trumpland is a huge win.

#8 Comment By b. On March 9, 2018 @ 1:41 pm

Who knows – Ronald Reagan’s genuine attempt to abolish nuclear weapons might have succeeded if “fixers” like Baker and the bill of goods he had been sold by the SDI-profiteering racketeers from Teller to Lockheed to Hughes to TRW to Boeing to Rockwell to McDonnell Douglas to General Electric to Martin Marietta to Teledyne to EG&G …

If Trump commits to a meeting in May 2018, it will take extra effort on pretexts and “handling” to make him go to war in April.

#9 Comment By b. On March 9, 2018 @ 2:53 pm

On a loosely related note:

H.R.4837 – No Unconstitutional Strike against North Korea Act
[6]

Massie, Jones – and certainly no Pelosi.

US military exercises in South Korea and around the Peninsula will precede that supposed May meeting.

#10 Comment By liberal On March 9, 2018 @ 4:29 pm

b. wrote,

Massie, Jones – and certainly no Pelosi.

Yeah, well…OK.

You might also note that Pelosi is the House Minority Leader. How many of the minority are cosponsoring the bill? Currently 66. How many in the majority? Uh…2. The 2 you listed.

#11 Comment By Dominique Watkins On March 9, 2018 @ 9:30 pm

I think Trump will go

Big win for Un. But I don’t care if something good comes from it.

I don’t think NK will ever denuclearize. Larison is right. But maybe things won’t be as tense as before.

#12 Comment By Uncle Billy On March 10, 2018 @ 4:13 am

One thing for sure, Saturday Night Live will have fun with a Trump-Kim summit. Talk about fertile ground for satire…

#13 Comment By b. On March 10, 2018 @ 9:51 am

Here’s the pushback: let us keep any talks with North Korea brief, because they will just use the time to close their “window of vulnerability” and complete a weapon that could “kill over here”. The time for diplomacy is past, the threat of an eventual clear and imminent threat is imminent and clear, and North Korea is likely not “serious” about negotiating anyway.

The money shot?

“The Trump administration must weigh such risks, including North Korea’s history of reneging on commitments, in deciding whether to go to the negotiating table, U.S. officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.”
[7]

Gotta give Trump credit – he still has everybody worried, even the warmongers and profiteers.

#14 Comment By Divebus On March 10, 2018 @ 6:33 pm

The best way to counter any notion of Kim manipulating Trump is for Trump to come back and claim Kim begged him on his knees to not eradicate his little part of the world. True or not, that would turn some tables.

Truth is, it needs to come out that Kim getting more belligerent with the hardware to back it up has made his regime far more endangered from the Americans than at any other time in history.

Best thing that could happen is an actual Peace Treaty for the Korean War be written and the military posturing can stand down.