By Robert Laurie
Does anyone really know what to expect from a meeting between Kim Jong Un and Donald J. Trump? Probably not. Anyone who tells you that they know how the summit will shake out is either lying or has stretched their “wishful thinking” to the breaking point. The fact is that North Korea has been a ruled by a gang of unstable dictators for a long, long, time and no one should pretend to know what this family of bowl-cut enthusiasts has planned.
We’re at a very weird point in history where North Korea could be making a legitimate effort to re-engage the world after decades of isolating tyranny, or it could all just be a crazy ploy to get a McDonald’s. …And neither outcome would surprise anyone.
At least we know what President Trump is hoping to see happen. If North Korea wants to see sanctions lifted, it’s going to have to denuclearize. Anything else, Trump says, is “unacceptable.”
“They have to de-nuke. If they don’t denuclearize, that will not be acceptable. We cannot take sanctions off. The sanctions are extraordinarily powerful. ..And I could add a lot more but I’ve chosen not to do that at this time.”
Asked if he needed more preparations for the meeting, Trump told reporters:
“I think I’m very well-prepared. I don’t think I have to prepare very much. It’s about attitude. It’s about willingness to get things done, but I think I’ve been preparing for this summit for a long time, as has the other side.
…This isn’t a question of preparation. It’s a question of whether or not people want it to happen – and we’ll know that very quickly.”
Now, under normal circumstances, I’d take that as a sign that a deal has already been struck. I would assume that someone within the Trump administration, possibly Mike Pompeo, had already met with the North Koreans, terms had been reached, and the ‘big meeting’ was just a smile-for-the-cameras photo-op. After all, you would assume President Trump isn’t going to all this trouble if he’s walking into a possible scenario where he’s rebuked or embarrassed.
This, however, is not “normal circumstances.” North Korea is not what we think of as a “normal country” and Kim Jong Un himself is anything but “normal.”
Still, I think it’s safe to remain cautiously optimistic. As I indicated, the Trump admin wouldn’t put itself out there if there wasn’t a reasonable chance of success. In the clip below, the President says this will likely be just the first of many meetings where a deal is hammered out. He’s not expecting a grand slam the first time to bat.
More than likely, this is step one in a very lengthy process. But talking is better than shooting, and even incremental progress would constitute a historic achievement.