Experts: Trump's meeting with Kim Jong Un won't help things

Foreign policy experts are skeptical that Trump will achieve anything in his meeting with the unpredictable despot

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published March 9, 2018 8:20AM (EST)

North Korean Troops (Getty/Kim Won-Jin)
North Korean Troops (Getty/Kim Won-Jin)

President Donald Trump's decision to meet with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un in May may be bold, but experts seem to agree that it is more likely to be unproductive than successful.

It's a position that Trump himself seemed to hold at one point. In October, he aroused controversy by undercutting Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's attempts to engage in productive dialogue with North Korea by publicly denouncing those efforts as a "waste of time."

Trump has also derided efforts by his presidential predecessors to work with North Korea.

Trump has also in the past stopped Tillerson from meeting with North Korea "without preconditions," according to Bloomberg. Yet Trump himself appears to be meeting with Kim despite the absence of preconditions, making the upcoming bilateral summit even more of a contradiction from Trump's previous stance toward the country.

"If the U.S. does come to the negotiating table, it might show North Korea the U.S. sees it as an equal, even if that's not the intent," writes Shannon Vavra of Axios. "That's one big, tacit concession to the Kim regime — North Korea has long-wanted to be seen as a major player on the world stage."

Axios also pointed to recent tweets by Suzanne DiMaggio, who has been leading unofficial talks between the United States and North Korea, as further evidence that part of Kim Jong Un's end game in wanting to speak with Trump is the default legitimacy that directly meeting with an American president would bestow upon him.

Another concern about the upcoming bilateral meeting is that, even if Trump were able to achieve some of America's immediate diplomatic goals regarding North Korea, it would be very difficult if not impossible to determine whether they've been followed.

"Statements from the administration suggest that the U.S. goal is for North Korea to dismantle its nuclear arsenal and become a non-nuclear power," former Secretary of Defense William J. Perry wrote. "There is every reason to doubt that North Korea would be willing to go that far; but even if they are, there remains a fundamental question: How could we possibly verify such an agreement?"

Not everyone is convinced that Trump is sincere in his desire to resolve things with North Korea. On Friday, MSNBC host Joe Scarborough described Trump's decision as a "deflection" from controversies like his tough new tariff proposals and his alleged past affair with former adult film actress Stormy Daniels.

It's a theory that's not too implausible.

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer at Salon. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012 and was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022.

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Donald Trump Kim Jong Un North Korea Rex Tillerson