Trump’s big summit with Kim Jong Un is officially back on
The announcement comes eight days after Trump previously canceled the meeting, apparently because he worried North Korea would scrap it first.
That set off a flurry of diplomatic activity over the past week, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s Thursday meeting with Kim Yong Chol, a top North Korean official widely seen as Kim Jong Un’s right-hand man. Kim Yong Chol hand-delivered a personal letter from the North Korean leader to Trump. It seems that note, and Kim’s chats with Trump and Pompeo, cleared the way for the Trump’s summit with Kim Jong Un.
It’s a stunning turnaround, but setting up the meeting will likely be the easy part compared to actually striking some sort nuclear deal with North Korea.
After all, Washington wants the North to completely dismantle its nuclear program, but Pyongyang has no incentive whatsoever to do so. According to the Pentagon and the CIA, North Korea sees its nuclear weapons as a deterrent against foreign invasion, particularly by the US, and therefore has no impetus to curb its nuclear program.
Which means it’s unclear what, exactly, Trump and Kim might actually accomplish during their newly scheduled summit.
Experts I talked to offered up four broad scenarios of how the meeting might go, which range from unlikely to practical to catastrophic — including setting the stage for war.
Scenario one: small deal and more talks
This, experts tell me, is the most likely outcome of a Trump-Kim summit.
“What we should be expecting is … a mutually agreed-upon outline for how the process moves forward, a sense of realistic timing, and some principles of what elements absolutely need to be included in an agreement from both sides,” Jenny Town, a Koreas expert at the Stimson Center, told me. “Then it gets handed down to negotiators to work out the details.”
In practice, this is the start of the deal. Trump and Kim would effectively be creating a road map for future negotiations, while offering up the usual diplomatic boilerplate.
That would still give staffers, like Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, a chance to find common ground. It’s possible that if both sides agree to more specific nuclear details down the line, Trump and Kim could meet again and finalize a more robust deal.
But neither leader will want to leave the meeting empty-handed, so they might offer up a symbolic concession to kick-start a much longer process. Trump could relax some of the tough sanctions placed on North Korea, and Pyongyang, meanwhile, might destroy some of its missiles — but not the ones that could reach the United States.
There would not be much to celebrate immediately, but it would hopefully serve as the beginning of a much grander opportunity for both countries to negotiate an end to the nuclear standoff — and avoid a horrific outcome.