Donald Trump in North Korea: How does he avoid looking like Kim Jong-un's fool?

Trump needs to come back from Hanoi with something real or else look like he's being played (again) by Chairman Kim

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published February 26, 2019 1:39PM (EST)

Kim Jong-un; Donald Trump (Getty/Salon)
Kim Jong-un; Donald Trump (Getty/Salon)

As President Donald Trump prepares to meet North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un in Saigon on Wednesday and Thursday for their second summit, the burden rests on the president to obtain concrete results rather than vague reassurances.

"I think the best case scenario is we come away with an agreement similar to what we've seen in the inter-Korean accords, where we have a work plan for a short-term period that lays out some very concrete steps for both sides," Jenny Town, research analyst at the Stimson Center and managing editor and producer of "38 North," told Salon.

As one example, Town said that America could convince North Korea to start dismantling fissile material production facilities or insist on "some movement on the political and peace agendas." These could include "things like exchange of the liaison offices, a declaration to end the Korean War and probably a commitment to ... starting peace treaty negotiations" with South Korea. Other possibilities could include "providing some exemptions to allow some inter-Korean economic cooperation projects to start, as well as a recommitting to continue negotiations on the broader agenda that was set in Singapore to work on denuclearization, normalization of relations and a peace regime.

"We have to get some substance out of this summit in order to provide proof of concept that this is the right approach to North Korea right now," Town continued, "considering how unconventional an approach for the United States this type of diplomatic process is. The worst-case scenario is we come away with no substance and only a reiteration of political will," an outcome she would perceive "largely as a failure."

Before leaving for Vietnam Trump told reporters that he was "not in a rush" to compel North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons, according to CBS News. In terms of his goals for the summit, Trump said that "we want denuclearization, and I think you'll have a country that will set a lot of record for speed in terms of the economy."

One potentially ominous sign for the summit was the mistreatment of American journalists covering the event. On Tuesday morning a Vietnamese security officer ordered the White House press corps to vacate a hotel that had been set aside for them to cover the summit. The were relocated to an international media center, according to NBC News. The decision was puzzling because the hotel had been approved by the White House in advance. It was unclear whether U.S. officials, North Korean officials, the Vietnamese government or some combination of the three was responsible for the eviction.

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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