Trump Hints Summit With Kim Jong Un May Be Back On The Table

One day after canceling his summit meeting with Kim Jong Un, President Trump is suggesting it may be back on. Before it happens, though, there ought to be far more adequate preparation.

One day after canceling the summit meeting with Kim Jong Un that had been set for June 12th, President Trump is now asserting  that it still may be possible for a meeting to go forward:

WASHINGTON — President Trump said on Friday that his administration was back in touch with North Korea and the two sides may reschedule his summit meeting with Kim Jong-un, perhaps even on the original June 12 date, a stunning reversal just a day after the president canceled the get-together.

“We’ll see what happens,” Mr. Trump told reporters. “It could even be the 12th,” he said. “We’re talking to them now. They very much want to do it. We’d like to do it. We’ll see what happens.”

Mr. Trump indicated that he was pleased with a conciliatory statement released by North Korea after his decision on Thursday to scrap the summit meeting, and he brushed off concerns raised privately by his staff and publicly by his allies and adversaries alike that Mr. Kim was playing him.

“Everybody plays games,” he told a reporter. “You know that.”

The president’s comments were the latest head-spinning twist in a diplomatic dance that has played out unlike any in recent years. After threatening “fire and fury” against North Korea and dismissing Mr. Kim as “Little Rocket Man” last year, Mr. Trump abruptly accepted an invitation to meet — and with little consultation with his advisers.

He just as suddenly called off the meeting on Thursday morning after North Korean officials failed to show up for a planning meeting in Singapore and issued a statement calling Vice President Mike Pence a “political dummy” for suggesting that Mr. Kim could meet the same grisly fate as Libya’s Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi if he did not give up his nuclear weapons.

But Mr. Trump still gave the impression of someone eager to pursue a relationship and a deal that he has mused could win him the Nobel Peace Prize. And North Korea picked up on that by reacting calmly to the cancellation, issuing a statement saying that “with a broad and open mind, we are willing to give the United States time and opportunity” to come back to the table.

In addition to the remarks to the press, Trump also commented on the cancelation on Twitter:

Trump appeared to be responding to the North Korean response to yesterday’s announcement that the meeting had been canceled, which was more conciliatory than may have been expected:

North Korea’s First Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan said Friday that his country still wanted to pursue peace and said it would give Washington more time to reconsider talks. He added that North Korea “inwardly highly appreciated” Trump for agreeing to the summit, and hoped the “Trump formula” would help lead to a deal between the adversaries.

“The first meeting would not solve all, but solving even one at a time in a phased way would make the relations get better rather than making them get worse,” Kim said in a statement carried Friday by the state-run Korean Central News Agency. “We would like to make known to the U.S. side once again that we have the intent to sit with the U.S. side to solve problem regardless of ways at any time.”

This doesn’t mean that the summit is back on, or that it there is talk of rescheduling it to a later date in the summer or some other time during the year. Less than an hour after the President spoke, Deputy White House Press Secretary Hogan Gidley told reporters that a planning meeting that had been scheduled for this weekend in Singapore had been called off and that the American delegation would not be going to Singapore. This would be at least the second planning meeting that didn’t take place as scheduled, and those meetings will have to go forward and pick up wherever the participants may have left off before a meeting could actually go forward. This means that even if the meeting does get the go-forward again, it’s likely that it would have to be scheduled for some other time down the road if only to make up for the time that has been lost due to the missed planning meetings and other delays that will occur. Perhaps if things can get back on track in the next several days, the June 12th date would still be possible to meet but the longer the two sides are not talking to each other the less likely that becomes.

Even if the meeting does get put back on the table, though, it strikes me that there ought to be more work done before it occurs if the meeting is going to be anything other than a symbolic one that amounts to little more than a photo opportunity in which Kim Jong Un ends up getting the boost in stature that he obviously craves from a meeting with the President of the United States. In the past, summit meetings of this type were preceded by months if not years of negotiations between the parties involved that had the goal of hammering out the topics that would be discussed at the meeting and, if possible, the terms of any agreement that might be announced as a result of that meeting. In the past, when American Presidents have gone into meetings such as this without adequate preparation it is typically ended in failure. One of the primary examples of this can be found in President Kennedy’s 1961 meeting in Vienna with Nikita Khrushchev which Kennedy had initially proposed as an occasion for “informal” conversations regarding the issues between the two nations. For a variety of reasons, the meeting was ultimately seen as a diplomatic failure after which Khrushchev had concluded that Kennedy was weak on some level, an impression that led to events such as the decision to place nuclear missiles, thus provoking the Cuban missile crisis. Another example can be found in the 1986 summit in Rekyavik, Iceland between President Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, which went off the rails largely due to the fact that the two leaders ended up going far beyond the parameters of what the meeting was supposed to achieve. In that case, though, the U.S. and U.S.S.R. were able to keep negotiations on track and to eventually hammer out a treaty on the intermediate range nuclear missiles stationed in Europe and a summit meeting in Washington, D.C. in the fall of 1987. Given these examples, and the history of other summit meetings that included proper preparation, it seems advisable to either schedule the summit for a much later time this year or to keep it off the table until there is some kind of concrete agreement that can actually accomplish something.

What this development tells us, though, is that both Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un would still like a meeting to go forward sooner rather than later, albeit each for their own purposes, Trump, for example, likely views the summit as something that can be pointed to as a sign that, contrary to what the media says, he is a serious player on the world stage and that he ought to be taken seriously. For Kim, such a meeting would essentially serve as a legitimization of him and his regime on the world stage in the form of a one-on-one meeting with the most powerful man in the world. As far as substance goes, though, it’s still quite apparent that the two nations are not exactly on the same page when it comes to the details of issues such as the fate of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, sanctions relief, and what, if any, security guarantees the United States and its allies would be willing to give to the DPRK in exchange for a broader agreement. Until there’s at least a framework for a discussion on possible agreements in this area, it seems clear that any summit meeting would be little more than a photo opportunity that would clearly benefit Kim far more than it would benefit the United States.

FILED UNDER: Donald Trump, National Security, North Korea, Politicians, US Politics, ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Mikey says:

    What an utter, stupid clusterfuck this Presidency is. Good God.

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  2. reid says:

    Trump practicing .1-dimensional chess for all to see.

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  3. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Kim is playing this fool so hard.
    It would be sad to watch…if we weren’t talking about nuclear confrontation…that makes it scary.

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  4. michael reynolds says:

    This summit was a bad idea from the start because the US strategic interest is not primarily about getting rid of NK nukes, it’s about containing China. A deal that involves Kim giving up nukes and gaining recognition and sanctions relief in exchange for serious reductions in US power and influence is not a good deal. And that is the deal in the end.

    I’ll repeat the analogy I used some time back: If a thief points a gun at you and demands your wallet, and you say “OK, but only if you drop the gun,” and then he drops the gun and you give him your wallet that is not a win. That’s a successful robbery.

    This is a War Games situation: the only way to win is not to play.

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  5. MBunge says:

    @michael reynolds: the US strategic interest is not primarily about getting rid of NK nukes, it’s about containing China.

    This is entirely true. How you go from that to equating the elimination of North Korea’s nukes with “serious reductions in US power and influence” is odd. If you are suggesting the approach should be to squeeze China until they denuclearize and normalize North Korea, Donald Trump would probably agree with you. There is however, literally no support for that approach in the political establishment of the West.

    Mike

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  6. Kathy says:

    I’d say Mangolini of the Tiny Hands expected the world to fall on its collective knees at his abrupt cancellation, then realized more people preferred the idea of talks. So he has to backpedal now.

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  7. Scott says:

    “The first meeting would not solve all, but solving even one at a time in a phased way would make the relations get better rather than making them get worse,”

    This tells me the NKs will haggle for years on issue after issue. Probably knowing full well that Trump (and Americans in general) do not have the patience and willpower to negotiate very long.

    All the while, their prestige will rise in East Asia if not the rest of the world.

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  8. Scott says:

    @michael reynolds:

    US strategic interest is not primarily about getting rid of NK nukes, it’s about containing China.

    TPP was all about containing China and Trump stupidly threw it away.

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  9. wr says:

    @MBunge: ” How you go from that to equating the elimination of North Korea’s nukes with “serious reductions in US power and influence” is odd.”

    Not that odd if you are actually paying attention to what’s going on. It’s pretty clear that Trump is willing to give up just about anything to get his “win” — and that includes pulling our military presence from the Korean peninsula… something he has apparently already flirted with doing before being talked down by a couple of people who have a little more awareness.

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  10. michael reynolds says:

    @MBunge:
    Trump has promised to shower wealth and love on Kim if he gives up his nukes. So Kim the stick-up artist gets Trump’s wallet. Kim is stronger and more stable, and since Trump has already signaled a desire to remove all US troops from Korea, what do you think the final deal is? It’s Kim gives up nukes and ensures his own survival, while we reduce our footprint in Korea.

    Tell me: who is the big winner in that deal? Us? Or China?

    We currently have China nicely boxed in by sea with Japan (Okinawa), Taiwan, Philippines and South Korea. Reducing our power in Korea takes one of those elements off the table. It also reduces our intel capabilities based in South Korea. It deprives our ships of logistical support. It lengthens the distance US planes and conventional missiles have to fly to reach China.

    And what does it do for us? Nothing. Kim’s nukes are not offensive weapons to hit the US, they are defensive weapons to keep us from moving against him. Kim was never going to wake up some day and send nukes flying toward L.A. The purpose of his nukes was to keep us from pulling a Saddam/Gaddafi on him. They were a way to stymie any offensive effort by the US, they were never an offensive threat.

    The deal Trump has proposed is: de-nuke and we’ll shower you with money. IOW: give up the defensive weapons and we’ll ensure not only your survival but your prosperity – which of course was Kim’s wet dream when he was building nukes. The nukes are squirrel! . Our strategic goal is containing China, and a deal does exactly the opposite: it makes Kim less trouble to China. It makes Kim stronger. All it does for us is make it a bit easier for us to attack NK, something we’ll promise not to do as part of the deal. Do you see the problem there?

    A weakened US presence in SK is also a big flashing signal to Japan and Taiwan: China up, the US down, act accordingly.

    Kim wins, Xi wins, the SK left wins, and we gain fck-all. If you see a flaw in that reasoning, point it out.

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  11. Kylopod says:

    @Kathy:

    then realized more people preferred the idea of talks.

    Actually I think his main motivation is that he was humiliated. He doesn’t so much mind bad press as that he minds the press making fun of him, which was what happened in reaction to the news yesterday. I’m increasingly reminded of the seemingly endless cycle of Obamacare repeal collapsing and being revived, which followed a similar trajectory.

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  12. michael reynolds says:

    @Scott:
    There are days when it’s hard to decide who this imbecile helps more, the Russians, the Chinese or the Saudis. I pick D: All of the above.

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  13. gVOR08 says:

    Trump flip-flopped again. Wake me up when they actually sit down with each other. And with Trump doing our negotiating, I’ll be happier if it turns out to be just a photo op.

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  14. Todd says:

    Every word that comes out of the mouth of Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani, Kellyanne Conway, Sarah Sanders, and just about anybody else associated with this administration should be reported as at best a rumor, if not an outright lie … unless and until it is objectively confirmed as true.

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  15. Kathy says:

    @Kylopod:

    I don’t know. he’s made fun of everyday. if he wanted to be respected, he’d behave like an adult.

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  16. Kylopod says:

    @Kathy:

    I don’t know. he’s made fun of everyday. if he wanted to be respected, he’d behave like an adult.

    But he got pretty good press for the past few weeks over the planned summit (you don’t think all that talk about the Nobel Peace Prize went to his head?), before the whole thing started falling apart. When he pulled out yesterday, he was clearly doing the old “I’ll break up so I won’t be the one getting dumped” ploy–but it quickly became clear most people saw right through that. That’s why I compared it to Obamacare repeal: it’s something he’d rather succeed in, but even if he fails, he’s going to try to do whatever he can to shift the blame onto someone else. There are always people making fun of his behavior, but I do think he genuinely hates being called a loser and failure.

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  17. Yank says:

    @Scott: To be fair to Trump, he wasn’t the only idiot to not understand what TPP was all about. Bernie and his crowd crapped all over it. Even Hillary crapped on it too (which is a infuriating, because unlike Trump and Bernie, she is smart enough to know better).

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  18. Kathy says:

    @Kylopod:

    (you don’t think all that talk about the Nobel Peace Prize went to his head?)

    Everything goes to his head. If you called him “the greatest f***g moron that ever stumbled through the White House door,” he’d elbow Kelly and say “Hear that? Kylopod says I’m the greatest!”

    I think getting North Korea to denuclearize would be worth a Nobel Prize, which means Trump is in no danger of getting one (“Hear that? Kathy says I deserve a Nobel Prize!”). He’s sore that Obama got one, which I’ll readily admit he got for not being George W. Bush (and that suggests whoever succeeds Trump may get every Nobel Prize for 2021). His base, naturally, are convinced, rabidly so, Mangolini should get two.

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  19. Kylopod says:

    @Kathy:

    If you called him “the greatest f***g moron that ever stumbled through the White House door,” he’d elbow Kelly and say “Hear that? Kylopod says I’m the greatest!”

    I disagree. If I was prominent enough for him to notice my comments, he’d call me “Low-IQ Kylopod” or “Sleepy Eyes Kylopod” or some other insulting nickname.

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  20. the Q says:

    Sorry, I see this as the influence of that war criminal Bolton on this process. It’s clear Bolton wants to resurrect the other 2/3s of the evil empire schtick that got us into Iraq.

    First he scuttles the Iran deal, now he and Pence pull out the “Libyan model” for NK? That’s like Hamas saying, “look Israel, lets follow the Mein Kampf solution”. Bolton should be rotting in jail with Cheney. In a perfect world, they would have been tried in the U.S. for war crimes and beheaded.

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  21. An Interested Party says:

    Is it any wonder that the Iranians probably want nuclear weapons? They look at this idiot and think, hey, if we get nukes, he’ll promise that we’ll be safe and our country will be rich too…

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  22. Kathy says:

    @Kylopod:

    Maybe. but later he’d claim you called him “the greatest.” 🙂

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  23. Kathy says:

    Moon: I have two summits with Kim. What have you got?

    Trump: Big, yuge, beautiful coins! I win! Fake news! Lock her up!

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  24. teve tory says:

    Donald J. Trump

    Verified account

    @realDonaldTrump

    The Failing @nytimes quotes “a senior White House official,” who doesn’t exist, as saying “even if the meeting were reinstated, holding it on June 12 would be impossible, given the lack of time and the amount of planning needed.” WRONG AGAIN! Use real people, not phony sources.

    8:21 AM – 26 May 2018

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  25. Jen says:

    @teve tory: NPR is reporting that the advance team is heading to Singapore as planned.
    https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2018/05/26/614655515/north-and-south-korean-leaders-hold-surprise-meeting

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  26. teve tory says:

    @Jen: In a perfect world, they hold the meeting in June, Trump becomes the greatest negotiator in history, and North Korea gives up all its nukes.

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