The much-anticipated summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, scheduled for June 12, is in trouble. After National Security Adviser John Bolton said last week that the US would seek complete and total North Korean nuclear disarmament, North Korea said publicly that it would never accept such an outcome — and threatened to pull out of the meeting if Washington didn’t adjust its expectations.
North Korea experts see this as a long-overdue reckoning. The truth is that the United States and North Korea have long expected diametrically opposed outcomes from the talks — with the US wanting North Korea to give up its nukes and North Korea demanding recognition as a legitimate nuclear power. But neither side was willing to confront the reality of the situation. We’ve just been stumbling toward negotiations with no clear sense of how this yawning gulf could be resolved.
How did we get here? Robert E. Kelly, a professor at South Korea’s Pusan National University, gave a really clear explanation in a series of Monday morning tweets, as per the following excerpts:
1) It increasingly looks like the Moon administration overstated North Korea’s willingness to deal.
2) Trump accepted the NK summit offer 45 minutes after he was told of it, without even telling the White House staff, and then drank his own kool-aid watching Fox telling him for weeks that he deserved a Nobel. Now comes the hang-over.
3) It is an open secret in South Korea that this was just flattering Trump to prevent him from starting a war.
4) Moon’s approval rating has shot up into the 80s%, even though he won with just 41% a year ago, and approval of the summit process is in the 90s%. [Note: Moon is a leftist who took office in May of last year, back when Trump was threatening war with North Korea. He made a deep and concerted effort to try to broker negotiations between Trump and Kim to defuse the tension. The problem, as Kelly points out, is that this was always a kind of shell game: Moon could never change the fact that the US and North Korea want fundamentally different things. Basically, he argues, this was a gambit to try to convince Trump not to go to war with North Korea — one that may yet fail.]
5) The problem, of course, is that … NK is not going to denuclearize; NK was not driven to negotiate by maximum pressure (they chose to negotiate, because they established nuclear deterrence with the US mainland);
6) Trump likely desperately wants this summit for the TV, attn, & a political ‘win’ he can market at home to change the story f/ his scandals & blunt a looming blue wave. So the summit will [probably] still happen, even tho, scarily, w/ 3 weeks to go, no one really knows how it will unfold.