Trump Set To Meet Face-To-Face With Kim Jong-un, And Soon!
Nukes On The Table, Sanctions Remain For Now, Time And Place Not Yet Determined, Just That It’ll Be “By May”
This story unfolded in a very strange way: South Korean National Security Director Chung Eui-yong, who just met with Kim Jong-un in North Korea, came out of the doors of the White House to announce he had presented Trump with a personal request from Kim for talks, and Trump had accepted. Here’s a short video of the announcement:
Trump was not present for that, but shortly after confirmed the story, via Tweet.
Trump would be the first sitting President to meet with a North Korean leader. We won’t speculate too much about the location of the meeting: but with talk of “decapitation squads” and rapid assault teams, it’s highly unlikely Kim will leave North Korea. So will this become a “Nixon in China” type scenario (where Kim can deliver the type of spectacle Trump loves)? Or will the two simply meet at the Joint Security Area within the DMZ?
Most of the coverage is focusing on the shock and sheer audacity of the move, bringing together “two strong-willed idiosyncratic leaders who have traded threats of war,” (as the New York Times puts it). Others are debating whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing.
We will say, as Trump would say, “we called it!” In our April 18, 2017 edition, we wrote “Kim Jong-un’s best play might be to pick up the phone and give President Trump a buzz. Trump seems to respond favorably to strongmen who come calling. Maybe they’d even be friends. Anyway, that’s what we’d do if we were Kim.”
There’s an actual reason we’re bringing that up beyond patting ourselves on the back: we also stand by a second assertion we made around that time: that North Korea will never give up its nukes. It would be like asking Trump to give up America’s steel companies: nukes are the way Kim’s defines North Korea’s national identity, and one of its only sources of pride; distracting the populace from abject poverty, and rampant human rights abuses.
At the same time, North Korea has agreed to denuclearize in the past. The so-called “Agreed Framework” reached during the closing years of the Clinton Administration didn’t dismantle, but froze plutonium production, and activity at several nuclear reactors. The Bush administration somewhat rashly killed the deal, after it found North Korea still experimenting with ways to better enrich uranium. Then Under-Secretary of State, and now frequent Fox contributor, John Bolton, has gone out of his way to almost single-handedly take credit for scuttling the deal, saying “this was the hammer I had been looking for to shatter the Agreed Framework.” (Trump reportedly almost named Bolton Secretary of State, except he didn’t like the man’s mustache — no joke.) Now Bolton says the latest developments are just ways for Kim to stall for time until he has a “deliverable nuclear weapon”, calling North Korea “the world’s best grifters”.
Other columnists are likening Kim to the Road Runner and Trump to Wile E. Coyote. Or that Trump is ‘giving the worst human-rights abuser on the planet, what he most wants: international legitimacy”.
All that may be true.
At the same time — given the alternatives — it’s worth a shot.