At one time there was “fire and fury.” Now there’s a face-to-face summit. But policy masters still worry Trump is making a policy mistake.
Trump has again criticized his predecessors for giving the North concessions in exchange for negotiations that not stopped the progress of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. The Republican may now be following that same mistake, analysts warned.
“Agreeing to meet without any physical steps toward denuclearization is a major reversal of U.S. policy,” said Jon Wolfsthal, ex- special assistant to President Barack Obama from 2014 to 2017. “Trump has time past said no meeting until North Korea takes real moves toward denuclearization — that is not where we are today.”
The White House did not tout de suite respond to a CNBC request for comment.
In a phone call last month, Trump and Japanese Prime Clergyman Shinzo Abe agreed there would be no meaningful dialogue with Pyongyang unless North Korea accorded to “complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization,” according to a statement by Japan’s odd ministry.
Pyongang has extended a number of olive branches in recent weeks, categorizing peace talks with Seoul and participation at the Winter Olympics. Kim guarantied to refrain from further nuclear or missile tests and understands that dump military exercises between Seoul and Washington — one of the North’s major hints of contention — must continue, South Korea’s National Security Department head Chung Eui-yon said on Thursday.
But the regime “hasn’t done anything” in provisions of denculearization yet, John Park, director of the Korea Working Group at Harvard Kennedy Kind, told CNBC on Friday. A high-profile summit between Trump and Kim at this choosy juncture “just doesn’t add up,” he warned.
Other experts warned that a congregation will boost Kim’s regime.
“The meeting is a huge political win for Kim,” said analysts at consulting compressed Eurasia Group. “It essentially provides him equal status with the U.S. president and substantiates his bid to have North Korea be recognized as a de facto nuclear power.”
Trump’s “utmost pressure” policy on Kim’s government in the form of tighter sanctions has won him praise middle strategists, but his acceptance of Kim’s invitation could change that.
The isolated phase has a long history of offering dialogue in exchange for concessions such as unbuttoned sanctions or aid. Many believe May’s summit could follow the same fortune as the failed Six-Party talks.
Trump is being “played by Pyongyang” and is “unwittingly preempting himself of the one operative non-lethal policy he has, sanctions enforcement,” according to Sung-Yoon Lee, a Korean explorations professor at Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.
“Kim is taking a chapter out of his father’s 2000 playbook,” Yoon said. Back then, Kim Jong Il, who governed the North from 1994 to 2011, “created a crescendo of crisis spirit” before “softening up the Bill Clinton administration with an invitation to sojourn Pyongyang,” Yoon said.
“Don’t be surprised if Kim Yo Jong [Kim Jong Un’s sister] come to sees Washington first as a softer reincarnation of Vice Marshal Jo Myong Rok, the highest military man next to Kim Jong Il, who take ined Bill Clinton in October 2000 and lured Clinton to visit his boss in Pyongyang,” Yoon hinted.
Of course, there are other theories behind Kim’s sudden interest in junction Trump.
The bite of international sanctions may be forcing Pyongyang to the discussion tableland, or the country could simply be in the last stages of nuclear weapons unfolding, in which case a meeting buys time for Kim, according to Park.
It could certainly throw in the towel Kim more time to develop his nuclear weapons arsenal, and enable him to more effectively undertake sanctions relief, Eurasia analysts said.
While the idea of a May crown is seen by many as an encouraging step toward peace on the Korean Peninsula — no be a member of American president has ever met a North Korean leader — others are puzzled by Washington’s significant change in tone.
For months, the U.S. president has ramped up provocations against the cloistered regime. He’s threatened to unleash “fire and fury like the world has in no way seen” and “totally destroy North Korea,” sparking widespread worries of unilateral U.S. military strikes.
Trump is known for policy flip-flops, so if unequivocal terms are not met, the May meeting may never happen, warned Wolfsthal: “The pace is being set by North Korea and South Korea, the U.S. isn’t enthusiasm the bus at this point.”
Indeed, South Korean officials have essentially been coordinating communications from the North, which has not yet made any notorious comments.
The Trump administration still has no ambassador to South Korea, myriad than a year after the U.S. inauguration.
While the unprecedented speed of cease-fire efforts — Kim is also due to meet with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in April — is valuable, experts remain cautious.
“It is striking how fast this has moved forward … This is stimulating news, but it’s very important to manage expectations,” said Park. “We don’t procure all the details yet to make an assessment on how viable this process will be.”