If Trump actually meets with Kim Jong-Un later this spring, it will become one of the most remarkable and unexpected pieces of political theater in diplomatic history – but little does Trump know that he has just been played.
While it’s hard to ever know what is on someone’s mind, a quick review of known facts does support a rather interesting conclusion regarding Thursday’s bombshell announcement that Kim Jong-Un is willing to meet with Trump to discuss peace in the Korean peninsula.
Interpretations vary regarding the reason for this sudden shift in policy. As The Guardian reported today, “The Korean war never formally ended and the threat of a new devastating conflict has hung over the peninsula for decades,” and NBC News added that: “No sitting American president has ever met with a North Korean leader — although former President Jimmy Carter did visit the country in 1994 — and the meeting comes after months of blustering between the two unpredictable leaders.”
Speculation regarding this seemingly sudden shift from Kim Jong-un is the subject of much debate. NBC News reported in a subsequent article that: “Trump may well be correct that his policy of tougher economic sanctions are beginning to bite. Kim may also be wary of White House threats of a preemptive nuclear strike, what National Security Council officials have referred to as ‘the bloody nose.'” Other medial outlets reported much the same.
However, several media outlets seem to be reaching a much different conclusion, postulating that Trump may very well have just been played. Take for instance how the idea was presented. As The Guardian reported:
It is a prize on an epic scale…. Both leaders view the provisional agreement to meet as a personal triumph born of resolve. The South Korean messengers who conveyed Kim’s invitation took pains to lay credit at Trump’s feet. White House briefers on Thursday night also went out of their way to tie the surprise development tightly to the US president’s leadership qualities.
The Guardian went on to explain that, in his naivety, Trump may very well have handed Kim Jong-Un a massive public relations victory.
[Trump] seemed unaware that Pyongyang had been seeking a one-on-one meeting with a US president since the 1990s at least. In securing agreement, Kim can claim an achievement that eluded his father and grandfather – being treated in the eyes of the world as an equal by the most powerful man on earth.
“To be clear – we need to talk to North Korea,” argued Jeffrey Lewis, the director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury institute of international studies at Monterey. “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 him as an equal.”
There are other issues at play as well.
As NBC News reported: “What concerns some experts, including those who’ve been pressing for diplomacy, is how unprepared the Trump administration likely is for what could be the most challenging nuclear negotiations since the end of the Cold War.”
The Guardian reported that: “There is no guarantee of the summit actually taking place.”
Kim did not put his invitation down on paper. It was relayed orally by the South Korean national security chief, Chung Eui-yong. Since Kim met Chung and his delegation on Monday in Pyongyang, the North has remained silent on the contents of the offer and could seek to move the goalposts in the run-up to the high-stakes meeting.
To top it all off, NBC News reported that North Korean leaders have played U.S. presidents in the past:
Another reason for caution is the experience of Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, all misled by North Korea to make concessions while Pyongyang continued to develop its illegal weapons.
Bill Clinton notably said while announcing an agreement with Kim Jong Il on Oct. 18, 1994:
“This agreement will help to achieve a longstanding and vital American objective: an end to the threat of nuclear proliferation on the Korean Peninsula. This agreement is good for the United States, good for our allies, and good for the safety of the entire world. It reduces the danger of the threat of nuclear spreading in the region. It’s a crucial step toward drawing North Korea into the global community.”
Clinton was wrong. Kim continued to develop a parallel weapons program, breeding the development of the very weapons that threaten the world today.