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    What Kim Jong-Un Wants

    What does Kim Jong-Un want from this week's summit from President Trump? More than anything else, he wants what he has always wanted, like his father and grandfather before him: to split the U.S. off from its allies South Korea and Japan. The worst part is, he is already getting what he wants.

    Now, I am not in any way an expert on Korea. But no Korea experts are involved, or apparently allowed to participate, in Trump's North Korea summit. Trump himself has openly refused to prepare for this summit, raving about how his first impression of Kim's body language will tell him everything he needs. [Pro tip: if you are planning to make a crucial strategic decision based on an adversary's body language, do not let the adversary know that. Too late, I understand.] That I know more about Kim Jong-Un's goals than the President of the United States is a scandal. I'm just a random person who tends to remember what he reads in the newspaper.

    One of North Korea's longstanding diplomatic goals, maybe on a tactical level their most important goal, has been bilateral peace talks with the United States, meaning two-way talks, just us and them. The United States has refused, insisting since the George W. Bush administration on six-way talks instead. And for many years, we did participate in those six-way talks, refusing North Korea's requests for one-on-one sidebars. Our official reason for demanding six-way talks has been that if the North Koreans are building nuclear weapons, all of North Korea's neighbors need a seat at the table. I mean, that's true enough.

    The six-party talks from 2003 to 2009 involved the U.S., North Korea, Russia, China, South Korea, and Japan. Why would we insist on the presence on Russia and China, who aren't always particularly helpful to us? Because we refused to be in a room with North Korea without South Korea and Japan there. The North Koreans could bring their friends, because we weren't showing up without ours. If North Korea wanted to talk to us, they have to talk to our regional allies, too. Because we were never hanging Japan and South Korea out to dry. That was our longstanding, bipartisan position.

    Trump's two-way summit gives the North Koreans what they have long wanted: a chance to deal with us separately from the South Koreans. Just giving them that is a major concession. A lot of people have focused on the fact that giving them a presidential-level meeting is also a massive gift, and that the normal plan would be for Kim to have to earn a face-to-face with POTUS by giving concessions and having a deal almost done. But any meeting with the North Koreans that doesn't involve the South Koreans is an even bigger concession, maybe the biggest.

    Kim Jong-Un wants, more than anything, to get the United States out of his potential sphere of influence. Because what he ultimately wants is South Korea. He doesn't want to negotiate peaceful reunification. He wants to unify Korea by taking the rest of it over, and the thousands of American troops in South Korea make that impossible. If he could do that without a shooting war, negotiating reunification on his terms by using the threat of military force, I think he would. But he may also like his chances in a straight military rematch with South Korea. But he knows he can't fight us. He wants us to leave, so he can use his military muscle on South Korea (and, secondarily, to intimidate Japan). This is why there was a flare-up a few weeks ago after regularly scheduled joint drills between the U.S. and South Korean military. Kim hates that most of all.

    Now a normal president of the United States roped into two-way talks with the North Koreans would still not sell the South Koreans out, or the Japanese. Obama and Bush refused to hold two-way talks with Kim's government, but if they had they would have kept America's commitments to its allies clearly in mind. But those commitments have never fully entered Trump's mind. He does not value America's international commitments and instinctively dislikes them. His recent misbehavior at and after the G-7 summit makes that all too clear. And Trump is, unfortunately, stupid. He is more than capable of giving away Japan and South Korea's security without thinking.

    In fact, he is stupid enough that he's eager to do that. He's already mouthed off about pulling all US troops out of South Korea, which would be Kim Jong-Un's geopolitical wet dream, and Trump is not smart enough to make Kim trade for that. He's talked about that as something he wants. It's like holding a summit with Fidel Castro in 1964 and suggesting, during the run-up to the meeting, that it might be easier just to get rid of Miami.

    Can Trump be trusted to protect South Korea's interests? Two years into his administration, he has not appointed an ambassador to South Korea. I don't mean hasn't gotten one through the Senate. I mean, hasn't given the Senate a name. Any name. And Japan is one of the G-7 countries at which he was venting his intemperate toddler fury this week. You tell me: can a man who gets into a fight with our closest ally over milk be trusted to protect the security of our Asian allies?

    Kim Jong-Un has already won. This week, he gets to find out how much he's won.

    Comments

    Trump wants a win, if he needs to pull troops...? Why not, "we'll see."

    Doesn't look like Trudeau's "knife in the back" is bothering Trump.

    Happy hour is on Canada time..?  Morning in Singapore, BBC has this picture of the pair:


    Luckily, those are street performers doing impersonations.

     


    The historic meeting starts at 9AM, the real Kim reportedly  leaves Singapore at 2PM.

    Fox and Friends - "Kim is rushing back to pack up all the nuclear weapons for Trump".


    U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had seemed to lower expectations for the meeting, which Trump had earlier predicted could potentially yield an on-the-spot deal to end the Korean War.

    "We are hopeful this summit will have set the conditions for future successful talks," Pompeo said on Monday evening.

      Chicago Tribune


    A few scattershot thoughts from another less than qualified observer:

    China is already showing mild concern that Kim might be looking to expand his geopolitical influence by roping Trump into a closer relationship and thereby giving North Korea unprecedented leverage.  A logical concern.

    It's been a subject of conjecture as to whether Trump's G7 behavior was meant to make him seem tougher as a negotiator; a leader not willing to take crap from anyone, even a close ally.  That supposition requires us to believe that Kim sees it that way, rather than recognizing a president whose global influence is badly diminished.  I lean toward the latter.

    They are scheduled to meet one-on-one, with only translators present, for the first hour or two.  (My less than qualified response: WTF?)  After which advisors will be present.  Yea.

    Just about the only positive historical reference I have read to combat my intense uneasiness is Nixon's success with China.  But no matter the chatter re: Nixon vs. Trump administrations, the facts are that Nixon was a smart political operative and Trump is an adolescent fool.  I am not encouraged.


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