The global community and most Americans are excited about the possibility of peace on the North Korean peninsula. Kim Jong-un has made several concessions prior to a yet to be scheduled summit meeting with President Trump.
It would be wise to manage expectations about the forthcoming meeting. Kim, his grandfather and father have buffaloed previous US presidents on numerous occasions.
The following is a list of substantive issues that may impact the success of the Trump/Kim negotiations:
-The most important question is why would Kim give up his nuclear weapons under any circumstances? Keep in mind he has tentatively offered to stop testing missiles and close down research facilities. He has not said he was ready to dismantle his nuclear arsenal.
-The most important objective of Trump should be the destruction or dismantling of Kim’s nukes. Unlike the Iran situation NOKO is already armed with deliverable weapons of mass destruction.
-Regarding denuclearization, it’s true that without a nuclear threat NOKO is nothing more than an insignificant satellite of China. The country will have little if any influence over others without the threat of a nuclear weapon.
-Kim wants to prevent a US military strike on his country and will do say or do anything to prevent it.
-Kim wants to end sanctions against his country, which will improve NOKO’s economy and reduce the chances of financial destabilization in the country. If the US rescinds sanctions, it will be difficult to manage Kim if he decides to go rogue again.
-Kim hopes to get foreign aid from the US. Would it be possible to gain approval from Congress to fund NOKO? It’s going to be a tough sell.
-Kim would like to encourage dissention between the US and South Korea. This could possibly lead to less support of South Korea militarily in the long run. If unification becomes a viable option, NOKO would have more influence in the process without the US standing behind South Korea.
-It would be a great disappointment if Trump, for whatever reasons (ego, too much faith in Kim, misreading his adversary, etc.), falls into the same trap as President Obama. The desire to make a deal should not overwhelm the importance of denuclearization.
-It is unclear whether NOKO is colluding with China, but it’s probably so. Therefore we must appreciate what is important to China. The most important issue is the possible unification of Korea, especially with South Korea taking the lead. It is not in the best interests of China for the two Koreas to collaborate. Secondarily mass migration of NOKO citizens is anathema to China.
-If a nuclear deal is consummated, verification will be a major issue. If NOKO continues to produce nuclear material after a deal is consummated, it will be difficult to substantiate. NOKO is not going to give outside inspectors uninhibited access.
-It would be a mistake for the US to make demands beyond denuclearization. The tendency of US diplomacy is to encourage democratic evolution and decreased human rights violations. These issues should be explored at another time. The more urgent consideration is eliminating nukes.
-A frightening thought is what would happen if the negotiations were unsuccessful? Will the situation resort back to US threats of military action and new missile tests by NOKO? The world would become exponentially more dangerous overnight.
This is the biggest deal in Trump’s life. It is not an ego trip or one that should fail before extraordinary efforts on both sides. Let’s hope both principals can get past their own character issues and make a deal for mankind.