Jacob Heilbrunn seizes on Trump’s latest odd statement and runs with it:
Instead of focusing on Philippine leader Rodrigo Duterte, he should extend an invitation to North Korea’s Kim Jong-un. His comments today that under the “right circumstances” he would be “honored” to meet with Kim were welcome ones, but he should go even further. Trump needs to display the innovative negotiating skills that he touted during the campaign and break with decades of stale and failed U.S. policy.
Any hint that Trump might be inclined to resolve outstanding disputes through diplomatic engagement instead of using bluster and threats is indeed welcome, but why should we (or the North Korean government) think that this latest statement means anything? Trump’s North Korea policy to date has consisted of making unrealistic, maximalist demands combined with threats of attack, and now all of sudden Trump is floating the possibility of meeting with their leader? Even if the North Korean leadership weren’t already suspicious to the point of being paranoid about U.S. intentions, this would come across as more of a trick than a genuine offer of commencing negotiations.
Reducing tensions with North Korea, negotiating a formal peace, and then establishing normal relations are all worthy goals. Achieving even one of these would take considerable preparation, coordination with other governments in the region, and a focused, disciplined approach, and the Trump administration has shown little capacity for any of these things so far. Achieving all of them would require a level of foreign policy competence that few administrations have ever possessed, and this one doesn’t seem likely to be up to the task.