It’s very early in the game for Trump and Kim Jong-un. There are many potential pitfalls that could derail the summit meeting between these two impetuous leaders. But, there is also a possibility that the negotiations will lead to a lasting peace between the US and North Korea.
Very few situations during the past 100 years, as serious as this one, have ended without violent conflict. The Cuban missile crisis is the only substantive moment that is comparable to what is taking place today. A potential nuclear confrontation was averted without firing a shot, even though the participants were not friends after it ended.
Personally I have been moved by the deft way that Trump has proceeded. Consider that just a few months ago, Trump and Kim were on a collision course. Name-calling, threats and the potential of a nuclear strike on the American homeland were a distinct possibility. Trump was relocating military assets to the region in preparation for an invasion. Today the volatile leaders are talking, negotiating and trying to find a path to peaceful co-existence.
At no time has Trump or his negotiators deviated from the primary objectives to demilitarize the Korean Peninsula and ensure it stays that way with uninhibited inspections. This may not all happen in the next week or two, but the president seems to understand that any concessions by the US should not be made until Kim progresses towards the aforementioned objectives.
By treating Kim respectfully, Trump seems to be making progress. He and his capable advisors (Pompeo and Bolton) must educate the young leader of North Korea and make him understand that the best deal he can obtain is one that secures his regime and opens up trade for his country. The possession of nuclear weapons and the prospective costs of maintaining them are not as valuable to Kim as improved economic conditions. Trump and company must convince Kim that he will insure his longevity as leader of North Korea by giving up the nukes, not by threatening to use them.
It has been rare to see a kinder and gentler Donald Trump. His relationship with his political opponents, insubordinate aides and other world leaders has been turbulent to say the least. His recent brouhaha with Europe and Canada over trade imbalances is an example of vintage Trump. He thinks he can bully his way to favorable relations.
But now, inspired by the gravity of the problem posed by North Korea, Trump has taken the high road. He must become an advisor to the young leader of North Korea. He must make him understand that isolation, threats and dependence on only China are not going to bring tranquility to his country.
It is very weird to see Donald Trump employ such diplomatic acumen to the North Korean crisis. But he’s doing it, and all Americans should applaud and support him. After all we are talking about the elimination of a credible nuclear threat.