The formal end of the Korean War is finally on the horizon, maybe this year. This was long overdue, really. Perhaps it could be the start of something…hopeful for the Korean peninsula.
Am I the only one who sees this as an echo of the Berlin Wall collapse? It gives me the same feeling, and I confess leaves me a bit choked up to see. It’s unquestionably a good thing, but then, as now, we can only wonder what comes next. It could very easily still go all to hell. I haven’t been the least bit optimistic in any of my previous posts on the topic of North Korea, nor has anyone I regularly read or listen to anticipated what has just come to pass.
I’ll be honest. I thought Trump was going to launch strikes. He’s done it to Syria and Assad wasn’t even threatening us. Seemed reasonable to assume, didn’t it? So maybe you can safely ignore my current “cautious pessimism”, since I’ve clearly been proven wrong on this topic.
Instead, Trump took a hard-line. He applied pressure on China and every corporate entity that in any offered succor to the Kim regime. He even exchanged insults with Kim. All of it sent the message: “You aren’t going to get what you want with your old tricks this time.”
It worked, thus far anyhow. Don’t just take my word for it, with my (unsigned) red MAGA ballcap. Moon Jae-in says so too.
Sure, you can point to a number of non-Trump factors that might have cowed Kim. The Chinese sanctions were particularly unbearable, I’m sure. It also appears that the last nuclear test may have irreparably damaged the North Korean testing site (China also can’t be happy about the potential, literal fallout). What shouldn’t be in dispute is that we wouldn’t be here now if Trump had just played along and threw some aid at Kim to behave himself for a few years, as his predecessors always have.
One criticism I’ve read for Trump agreeing to meet with Kim is that he’s broken with the tradition of all previous post-war US presidents to ever agree to meet one-on-one with a North Korean leader. My response to that is, “Why shouldn’t Trump meet with Kim?” A nuclear and hostile North Korea is a direct threat to us. I give few shits what input the Japanese and South Koreans might have on our vital interests if unilateral talks are what Trump has to give to get a solution to the problem.
Trump clearly has maximum leverage going into his meeting with Kim, but what exactly can either concede to the other? What would you want in Kim’s position? In his place, I’d try
the South Diet and cardio requesting the removal of US troops from the DMZ. Above all else, the Kim family has always depended on two things for maintaining the loyalty of the North Korean people. Fear of the United States, retaining the belief that only the Kim’s are strong enough to protect the people from the United States, and fear of dying in a nightmarish prison camp. Three. Three things. And a fanatical devotion to the godlike stature of the Kim family–FOUR things.
If the threat of the US is removed, it becomes impossible for Kim to maintain power by propagandizing against us. On the other hand, giving up the nuclear program while the US is still a threat is weakness and Kim will almost certainly face the probability of getting Ghaddafi’d at some time in the future. I’d be perfectly happy if US forces left the Korean peninsula altogether in exchange for a firm peace and denuclearization. I’m just not sure how much it will mean if Kim is subsequently overthrown and replaced by a military junta when he’s perceived as loosening up too much (or Gorbachev’d).
Trump’s challenge is to convince Kim Jong Un that playing along with what we want will bring him security through the prosperity of his people. That means that Donald Trump has to convince Kim to trust Donald Trump. Trump was elected because he swore he’d make the best deals.
Well, this is the biggest deal of his term so far. Trump has every advantage going in and Kim has everything to lose if he doesn’t get something. All we can do is watch and see if the last Cold War front’s resolution proceeds as well as the first in Berlin.