North Korea: The risks of a second summit
News of a second U.S.–North Korea summit “should be welcomed—but warily,” said The Washington Post in an editorial. Last week’s announcement that President Trump will meet next month with Kim Jong Un in an as-yet-undetermined location could be “a step forward” from the frustrating stalemate of the past seven months. The first summit did produce an agreement in which North Korea ceased nuclear and missile testing, halting what looked like “a slide toward war.” But since then, Kim has continued to develop his nuclear arsenal and missiles. A report this week disclosed the existence of a secret ballistic missile base—one of an estimated 20 undeclared North Korean sites. The danger is that Kim “will use a second summit to persuade a gullible U.S. president to yield valuable concessions in return for fool’s gold.”
Fears that Trump will give away the store run deep among administration officials and U.S. allies, said Courtney Kube and Carol Lee in NBCNews.com. Trump’s surprise agreement to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, made during a phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, underlined his unpredictability and willingness to defy his Cabinet. And it drove home to world leaders that the only thing that matters when it comes to influencing U.S. policy is a one-on-one with an uninformed president whose love for flattery makes him “an easy mark.” The “previously unthinkable” possibility that Trump will tell Kim he’s pulling 28,000 U.S. troops out of South Korea is a particular worry, said Simon Denyer in The Washington Post. “Obsessed” with what he sees as a waste of money, Trump has reportedly made repeated threats to pull the troops. Former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson played key roles in talking him down—but both are gone.
To achieve anything, the Trump administration has to give up on the “fantasy” of denuclearization, said Daniel Larison in TheAmericanConservative.com. Kim is never giving up his nukes. The goal should be to ensure that North Korea doesn’t share its nuclear technology with other countries or terrorists, and that Kim’s regime won’t use its weapons in a first strike. U.S. officials have a month to strategize and set goals, said Uri Friedman in TheAtlantic.com. But whatever plans are laid, “there’s no accounting for what happens when their boss gets in the room with Kim Jong Un.”