There’s a reason the White House is using the word “meeting” instead of “negotiations” to characterize President Donald J. Trump’s sit-down with North Korea’s murderous dictator, Kim Jong Un.
Negotiations between heads of state suggest prearranged topics to be discussed and clearly defined goals. Such talks occur after a great deal of planning, down to the location, the size of the table, the participants and even the handling of daily news briefings.
Meetings like the one Trump has agreed to with Kim are largely symbolic.
Thus the question: What does the president, a billionaire real-estate developer from New York City who touted his negotiating skills during the 2016 campaign, hope to achieve by getting together with Kim?
It isn’t clear.
Indeed, Trump’s spur-of-the-moment decision to accept Kim’s invitation is at odds with their relationship to date. The two leaders have traded insults and threats of nuclear annihilation.
The president of the United States has threatened the pariah nation of North Korea with “fire and fury” if Kim does not temper his rhetoric about nuclear strikes against America and its allies.
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has conducted numerous missile tests, including the one last July 4 of an intercontinental ballistic missile, which American military analysts say pose a danger to the free world.
Kim, derisively called “Little Rocket Man” by Trump, hailed the fiery launch of the ICBM as a “gift for the American bastards” and said his nation plans to “frequently send big and small gift packages to the Yankees.”
In response, Trump told reporters during a brief visit to the nation of Poland, “I have some pretty severe things that we’re thinking about” to respond to the North Korea’s provocation.
“Does this guy have anything better to do with his life?” Trump asked in the wake of the intercontinental ballistic missile launch.
It turns out Kim does have something better to do with his life: a meeting with the president of the United States.
The White House continues to insist that Trump’s tough stance against North Korea and the debilitating economic sanctions imposed by the United Nations at the urging of the U.S. have forced the dictator to hold out the olive branch.
TALKS ARE GIFT TO KIM
But for Kim, who has been widely condemned for taking the world to the brink of nuclear war, a meeting with the president of the U.S. is a gift that will keep on giving.
Pictures of the two leaders sitting across from each other will not only be beamed around the world but will adorn buildings in Pyongyang.
The meeting will be a public-relations coup for Kim, who inherited the mantle of leadership from his late father, Kim Jong-il, in 2011. It has long been the desire of North Korean leaders to meet with their American counterparts.
According to an analysis by Stephen Collinson of CNN, no American president has agreed to sit down with a North Korean leader – until now.
This is why Collinson wrote:
“Just by showing up to see Kim Jong Un, Donald Trump would give his murderous dynasty what it always has craved – the prestige and propaganda coup of a meeting of equals with the president of the United States.
“That is why the talks represent such a massive gamble for Trump and will subject him to intense pressure to deliver a significant breakthrough toward the U.S. goal of dismantling North Korea’s nuclear arsenal.”
Collinson noted that the assignment is fraught with difficulties, which is why former presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama balked at such meetings.
Clinton was considering the possibility of traveling to Pyongyang to conclude a missile deal late in his presidency in 2000, Collinson wrote, but he held back until he had a better understanding of what could be achieved.
It turned out that North Korea and the U.S. were too far apart on the details of the missile pact to justify handing Kim the huge concession of a Clinton visit, according to the CNN analysis.
Trump has said Kim is willing to consider “denuclearization,” but the meaning of the word is not clear.
The North Korean leader has agreed not to conduct any missile tests during the meeting, but there is nothing to suggest he is willing to abandon his nuclear program.
Therein lies the rub. If North Korea continues to develop its nuclear capability after the Trump-Kim meeting, what was the purpose of the face-to-face?