Is Trump walking into Kim Jong Un’s trap?

If President Trump actually meets with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and forges lasting peace on a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula, that would be truly amazing. We should all hope that happens. The fact that Trump and Kim appear to be giving peace a chance — after Trump’s “short and fat” and “Little Rocket Man” taunts and “fire and fury” threat, and Kim’s vow to “tame the mentally deranged U.S. dotard with fire” — is already an indisputably positive development.

The announcement that Trump has agreed to meet with Kim by the end of May was made Thursday. The White House confirmed the news, and Trump tweeted, “Great progress being made … Meeting being planned!”

“Optimists declared a major breakthrough,” Karen DeYoung notes at The Washington Post. “Even pessimists acknowledged that Trump’s hard line against Pyongyang, after decades of less forceful U.S. effort, played a significant role in moving one of the world’s most vexing and threatening problems in a potentially positive direction. But in the afterglow of the surprise announcement … questions were fast and furious.”

There’s the question of whether Trump is rewarding Kim with a face-to-face summit, something no other sitting president has agreed to despite invitations from Pyongyang, or just ripping up a playbook that hasn’t resulted in success for 25 years. Is Trump a good negotiator, book title notwithstanding? Does South Korea have it right that Kim is offering “permanent denuclearization”? If so, can Kim be trusted? And what is the U.S. willing to bring to the table? “Sanctions?” asks Victor Cha, Trump’s onetime pick to be U.S. ambassador to South Korea. “Normalization? Peace treaty?”

But another question looms very large: Is this a trap?

The White House says Trump can handle this, isn’t offering much, and will accept nothing less than North Korea completely dismantling its nuclear weapons program, with verification. “President Trump has a reputation for making deals,” a senior administration official told reporters. “Kim Jong Un is the one person able to make decisions in their uniquely totalitarian system and so it made sense to accept the invitation with the one person who can make decisions instead of repeating the long slog of the past.”

But Kim is unlikely to accept Trump’s one non-negotiable. “No sentient human can believe Kim is ‘committed to denuclearization,'” says Axios’ Jonathan Swan. “Denuclearization is a distant fantasy,” agrees Adam Mount, a senior fellow at the Federation of American Scientists, and “in accepting the invitation outright, Trump has already lost much of his leverage over the terms and agenda of the talks.”

“To be clear — we need to talk to North Korea,” says Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies. “But Kim is not inviting Trump so that he can surrender North Korea’s weapons. Kim is inviting Trump to demonstrate that his investment in nuclear and missile capabilities has forced the United States to treat …read more

Source:: The Week – Politics


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