The Trump-Kim Talks

The editors of the Washington Post cautiously support President Trump’s offer of direct talks with North Korea:

The challenge for Mr. Trump is avoiding another repeat of that cycle. That means setting an achievable goal: A realistic one might be a long-term extension of the freezing of missile and nuclear tests in exchange for limited U.S. concessions. Unfortunately, by agreeing to a summit, Mr. Trump has already handed over one of the largest potential trade-offs free of charge. Mr. Kim will use the event to portray his murderous regime as a legitimate nuclear power able to parlay with the United States on equal terms. He will no doubt demand a U.S. withdrawal from South Korea and a formal peace treaty in exchange for denuclearization, in the hope that Mr. Trump, unlike every previous U.S. president, will swallow those terms.

Given the president’s decision, the administration’s best course would be to use the coming weeks to hold preliminary talks with the Kim regime that make clear U.S. expectations and place the summit on firmer ground. If it becomes evident that the North is unwilling to commit to a freeze on its nuclear and missile activities, or will make excessive demands in exchange, Mr. Trump can step back. What he should not do is walk blindly into an encounter with a dictator who, we can be sure, will be well-prepared to take advantage of this president’s well-known weaknesses — starting with his penchant for impulsive decisions.

I oppose the talks. Neither side can back away from their central demands. From the U. S. side it’s likely to be the next step towards an illegal, immoral preventive war fought under the banner “We Tried”. Such a war would be likely to draw in the Chinese and, possibly, the Russians and it’s one that nobody would win.

Until and unless the North Koreans attempt to make use of their puny nuclear arsenal against us, our best course of action is to do nothing. Maintain the status quo. Should the Norks be so foolhardy as to attack us we should respond in a way that will ensure that no other country would ever seek nuclear weapons as a deterrent. Presidential energies would be better directed to preparing the American people and the Chinese for such an eventuality.

9 comments… add one
  • Andy

    The news media still haven’t learned this – they take whatever Trump says completely seriously, then extrapolate to the worst possible outcome, then fret about all the damage done to America as a result, then close the circle by using that to show how dangerous/incompetent he is.

    I’m skeptical the meeting will even happen. This is Trump and this meeting is probably one of his many public “trial balloons.”

  • The talks don’t actually need to take place to follow the course I’ve outlined.

    I think your suggestion of a trial balloon is an appealing explanation but it doesn’t change the underlying fact. The only thing we have to discuss with the Kim regime is the terms of their surrender. They don’t think they have to surrender. Consequently, there’s nothing to discuss.

  • Andy

    I agree to a point. As I’ve said before, I believe North Korean nuclear weapons are, in their view, a strategic necessity. I’m skeptical they would give them up in any negotiation with the United States. Like many North Korean actions, this move is probably about the regime’s internal legitimacy.

  • CuriousOnlooker

    We shall see. I still think the most realistic deal is a verified stop to missile development and inspections to stop proliferation in return for written (treaty like) guarantees that the US will not attack North Korea.

    The US won’t have appetite to overthrow North Korea that has little offensive threat to the US but deep defensive abilities.

  • CuriousOnlooker

    The other angle is how one assesses Kim Jong Un’s motivation. If Korean unification is low compared to regime survival; then there is something to talk about. If Korean unification is as important as regime survival; there is nothing to talk about.

  • I’m not sure the Kim regime distinguishes much between Korean unification and regime survival. For regime survival to be a motivator Kim would need to believe that he’s at risk from us and I’m not convinced he is.

  • steve

    I doubt the talks occur, but don’t really oppose them per se. If they do happen, I don’t see anything happening. Probably a win for Kim on some ways, but I think most of the world has already discounted Trump, so not as much of a win as if someone who was really grounded in foreign policy and was also POTUS, agreed to meet.


  • Gustopher

    Not talking hasn’t worked. Pursuing regime change by isolating the dictatorship has just made them pursue nuclear weapons for their own safety, which pushes us to do something while they are a medium sized problem rather than a large problem.

    The only way to get off the path to war is going to be through negotiations — Trump makes that harder than most other presidents would, but it’s our best chance now.

    A freeze on testing and a freeze on military exercises might be a decent trade, if we can get there.

  • bob sykes

    Evidently, Kim feels that further testing is unnecessary, that the US can be reached.

    A deal is possible. The US, North Korea, South Korea, Russia, China and Japan could sign a peace treaty that guaranteed the North’s security and the continued existence of Kim’s regime. All parties would have to be guarantors, and Russia and Chinese troops might be required in the DMZ. It might also be necessary to remove American troops from the Peninsula.

    North Korea might also want compensation for giving up its missiles and warheads, which cost them literally an arm and a leg. Buying them is the cheap way out.

    However, you are basically correct. The US Ruling Class cannot accept a deal in which they give up something or even anything. They will demand submission without guarantees. As Putin has noted, the US is incapable of negotiating. The North would be fools to accept, and they won’t.

    You are also correct that the best US policy is to do nothing. But, the Ruling Class is too far down the road of threats to back down. The loss of face would be unendurable. They would rather go to war and lose.

    And that is the most likely outcome. A very large-scale war in East Asia and the Pacific that we lose, with horrendous loses in people and infrastructure for everyone. The losses might exceed those of WW II.

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