27 March 2018

Summit Surprise

A meeting between Trump and Kim Jong-un could be a major opportunity—if Trump actually prepares for it.

If Trump wants this meeting to accomplish anything of value, he needs to do the following:

First, appoint an envoy to South Korea. (It is amazing that, more than a year into his term, he has yet to do this.)

Second, have his staff bring in the experts on Korea. Swallow hard if this means letting in the occasional Democrat.

Third (and this is a directive more for Trump’s advisers), do not let this meeting take place in Pyongyang. Kim would put on the most extravagant show in the history of the world, and Trump would be so impressed by the welcome that he’d likely embrace the “Hermit King” as his new best friend and concede who knows what at the bargaining table. The meeting should be held in the most boring neutral city in the world.

Fourth (a related point), Trump should not be allowed to meet with Kim all alone. At least one senior aide should be in the room along with a note taker and a State Department translator.

Fifth, the National Security Council should draw up a list of goals—three things, say, that Trump should try to get from this meeting, three things that he’d be willing to offer in exchange for a true pledge to freeze or dismantle the nukes, and three things that the North Koreans are likely to push for but that Trump should reject at all cost.

Fred Kaplan