Just when we thought the Trump White House couldn’t shock us anymore, it did! In the early evening of last Thursday, South Korea’s National Security Advisor, Chung Uui-Yong made a short statement in the driveway of the White House to members of the press. The statement delivered a message that announced that as a result of South Korean talks with North Korean advisers, Kim Jong Un, the dictator of North Korea had agreed to halting further nuclear tests and to consider the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. According to NBC News, “Chung said that in recent talks with South Korea, Kim Jong Un ‘expressed eagerness to meet President Trump as soon as possible.’”
Trump didn’t hesitate for a moment, agreeing to meet Kim without counsel from his State Department or the Pentagon. After all, Trump is the self-proclaimed greatest negotiator in history and this would surely provide a major distraction away from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. Certainly, in Trump’s inflated sense-of-self, these negotiations with Kim would be a slam dunk! Visions of a real Nobel Peace Prize abound.
Contrary to what Trump may think, Kim is no dummy. The Kim dynasty hasn’t ruled North Korea for over 60 some years by being stupid. It is a ruthless authoritarian regime and its latest military achievements have not only made it a serious conventional military power, but also a nuclear power capable of destroying our allies in South Korea and Japan. Recently, they apparently have several ballistic missiles armed with nuclear warheads that are able to reach the west coast of the United States.
Kim would like nothing more than to meet with Trump. It would give him something neither his father nor grandfather could accomplish – a meeting with the president of the United States and in Kim’s mind a recognition of North Korea as a legitimate nuclear power. No American president has ever done this in an official capacity. Trump agrees with a simple impulsive “yes.”
Kim has learned something about Trump which perhaps has not been obvious to the American media, who have heralded the proposed meeting as a breakthrough. Again, according to NBC News, “I do believe that North Korea now believes President Trump will use military force if he has to,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina via Twitter on Thursday night. “The worst possible thing you [Kim] can do is meet with President Trump in person and try to play him,” he added. Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., sounding a more cautious note, said the upcoming meeting should be “the beginning of a long diplomatic process” adding that Trump “must abandon his penchant for unscripted remarks and bombastic rhetoric to avoid derailing this significant opportunity for progress,” in a statement on Twitter.
Kim is well aware of the Russian interference and the cyber-attacks on the United States and the failure of the Trump administration to officially acknowledge, much less take any action against, Putin and the Russians. How Kim interprets this inaction will be an important dynamic in any talks between the two for several reasons:
- Kim may see this as a sign of weakness on the part of Trump and encourage further North Korean attempts to undermine American democracy.
- Kim understands Trump’s penchant for bombast and bravado. He in all probability believes Trump is not going to start a war on the Korean peninsula as long as 30,000 Americans are there. Kim has the capability to respond to any American action whether conventional or nuclear. The United States doesn’t need to be involved in another war in the Eastern Hemisphere. Afghanistan and Iraq/Syria have taken enough American lives and treasure.
- Kim can drag out any negotiations with whoever sits at the table (Russia, China, South Korea, Japan, and/or the United States). He will have gotten what he wants in the first place by meeting with Trump.
- Kim also knows that Trump has no attention span whatsoever. A prolonged negotiation will frustrate Trump and cause him to lose interest. Kim will then do what they have always done and cancel the negotiations.
- Finally, what the South Koreans have brought to the White House, while interesting indeed, has not been confirmed by North Korea at the time this post was written. “The Little Rocket Man” may well give Trump a lesson in the “art of the con.”