A “Rocket Man” and a “Rogue” Walk into a Bar: Thoughts on Trump’s Meeting with Kim Jong-un

March 8, President Donald Trump agreed to meet with Kim Jong-un in person and discuss nuclear weapons. The meeting is intended to result in the removal of nuclear weapons from the Korean Peninsula. A meeting between Trump and Jong-un would be the first meeting between a sitting U.S. president and a North Korean leader. It is said to be slated for May, according to South Korea’s national security adviser, Chung Eui-yong, who delivered the invitation to Trump after a visit by his delegation to Pyongyang earlier this week.

The announcement of the proposed meeting was certainly surprising, given the way that Trump and Jong-un have been interacting over the past couple years. Trump has referred to Jong-un as a maniac, a “rocket man” and a “madman.” In response, Jong-un has described Trump as “mentally deranged” and “a rogue and a gangster.”

However, after the Pyongyang winter Olympics, the two national leaders appear to be eager to pursue an agreement regarding denuclearization. On March 8, Trump posted about the North Korean leader on Twitter. “Kim Jong Un talked about denuclearization with the South Korean Representatives, not just a freeze,” he tweeted. “Also, no missile testing by North Korea during this period of time. Great progress being made but sanctions will remain until an agreement is reached. Meeting being planned!”

Critics of the proposed meeting claim that the United States president should have raised the “cost,” of a first-time U.S. president having an in-person meeting with the North Korean leader. “It is difficult to conceive of a higher currency in the diplomatic realm than a first-time U.S. [president] meeting with a North Korean leader — yet Trump spent that currency without leveraging any concessions from Pyongyang,” Bruce Klingner, a senior fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation who was CIA division chief for the Koreas, wrote Friday, calling the decision “impetuous.”

Political analysts are either opposed to the idea of the two politicians meeting or pleased that Trump is uncharacteristically considering diplomatic action instead of his aforementioned “big nuclear button.” The day of the announcement, White House officials stated that this sort of negotiation is perfectly befitting a president who prides himself on his negotiation skills. “President Trump has made his reputation on making deals,” a senior administration official told reporters. “It makes sense to accept an invitation to meet with the one person who can.”

Although it is true that President Trump is a successful businessman, he does not have a stellar record in the tact department. As we have seen with Trump’s previous interaction with Jong-un, he often resorts to insults and name-calling. While the idea of the two leaders meeting to discuss denuclearization is promising, there is nothing guaranteeing that the North Korean government will follow through on their word to denuclearize, or even halt nuclear programs until the talk in May.

While it would be nice to not have to be subconsciously concerned about nuclear war erupting at any moment, there is no guarantee that this meeting will result in the dismantling of the nuclear threat. Though it would be great for the proposed meeting between Trump and Jong-un to go well, there seems to be a lot at risk if things go poorly between the two hot-headed leaders. “Everyone should be aware that this dramatic act of diplomacy by these two unusual leaders, who love flair and drama, may also take us closer to war,” warned Victor Cha, a senior adviser and Korea chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “Failed negotiations at the summit level leave all parties with no other recourse for diplomacy,” Cha wrote Friday.

As Cha rightfully said, if things go poorly between Trump and Jong-un there is no alternative course of action – an altercation would most likely propel both countries into war. Furthermore, Trump has stated that he hopes a meeting with Jong-un will lead to the denuclearization of the entire Korean Peninsula, however it seems extremely unlikely that any amount of negotiation will have that result, and in the meantime, we all just have to hope that Trump and Kim play nicely.

Sources: CNN; Aljazeera; ABC News; PBS.

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