(Getty/BackyardProduction)

Trump's White House has no strategy for North Korea summit

"A normal administration wouldn’t do this": Foreign policy experts warn of the gravity of such a summit


Charlie May
March 19, 2018 7:01PM (UTC)

The Trump Administration is scrambling to prepare for a historic summit between the United States and North Korea, happening in just over two months.

Yet the specifics are still vague, including basic questions as to where the summit will be held, what will be discussed, what the U.S. is looking to gain and what it's looking to potentially give up, according to The Washington Post.

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The recent firing of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has complicated things further, as the departing CIA Director Mike Pompeo is pending confirmation by the Senate. Gen. H.R. McMaster is also on the outskirts of the Trump administration, and his potential replacement, John Bolton, has often fantasized about war with North Korea. Bolton recently penned a Wall Street Journal op-ed in which he argued for taking out the Kim Jong-un regime with a preemptive military strike.

Pompeo is also a hawkish ideologue and recently said the U.S. would make no concessions to the North Korean regime. Pompeo and the president have developed a relationship that is very much synchronized. So, while Trump's willingness to meet with North Korea could be seen by some as a sign of crisis aversion, his other recent administrative moves have suggested he's positioning for a more aggressive foreign policy in year two of his presidency.

In his acceptance of the first potential meeting between a sitting U.S. president and a member of the Kim dynasty, Trump has also placed himself on a pedestal and berated the foreign policy decisions of his presidential predecessors.

"Nobody would have done what I did," Trump said, according to the Post. "Maybe we should send in the people that have been playing games and didn’t know what the hell they’ve been doing for 25 years."

Other high-profile summits in the past have taken months or even years to prepare for, "with lower-level diplomats working out the agenda and the likely outcomes," the Post noted. The opposite rings true, however, for Trump's potential face-to-face meeting with Kim.

Some foreign policy experts have warned of the gravity of such a summit, and the preparation and focus that must go into it.

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"A normal administration wouldn’t do this," Michael J. Green, the senior Asia director at the National Security Council for the Bush administration told the Post. "The North Koreans have wanted an American president to meet the Kim family since the end of the Cold War to demonstrate to the world their nuclear program got the American president to treat them as an equal. No normal NSC or White House could see how this could be done without damaging the credibility of the president and our alliances."

Kim has yet to confirm the meeting between the two, since the president accepted earlier this month.

Typical for the administration, the White House has been bogged down by scandals that include staff shake-ups and a disputed nondisclosure agreement with a former adult film star. Trump can hardly focus on one topic for very long, but much of his mental faculties have been devoted to dodging and undermining anything that pertains to the ongoing special counsel investigation into his administration.

It's also worth noting that preparation — of any sort — with the president has been an increasingly difficult task. He doesn't read lengthy reports and briefings, and he has gone off-script on numerous occasions in past events.

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Charlie May

Charlie May is a news writer at Salon. You can find him on Twitter at @charliejmay

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