Monday, May 21, 2018
Trump is and has been Ignorant, incurious and arrogant. "If he once thought so, his sheen of certainty now seems to be eroding. According to the Washington Post, Trump held an under-30-minute phone conversation with Moon on Saturday night—feeling the chat couldn’t wait till their meeting in Washington just three days later—to discuss the unexpected twist in the pre-summit politics with Kim. Monday’s New York Times confirms the report and adds that Trump and his aides are panicked that Kim doesn’t seem as eager as they thought he’d be to make a swift trade of his nuclear weapons for vague promises of economic assistance.
These aides are also, just now it seems, getting nervous about the fact that their boss has declined to be briefed on the summit’s issues, preferring to trust his instincts, while Kim—according to U.S. officials who have met with him—is well-versed on the most intricate details of his arsenal and the surrounding geopolitics.
No one should have been surprised by Kim’s refusal to give away his sole strategic asset. What put Trump into a tizzy was the Wednesday statement by North Korea’s top negotiator, stating that Pyongyang was not interested in the “Libya model” of disarmament (which Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton had publicly proposed) and that the summit, scheduled for June 12 in Singapore, wasn’t worth holding unless Washington agreed that the goal should be “denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula” (not just of North Korea), achieved by “phased, synchronous measures” (not all at once or with North Korea making its move first, as Trump and his advisers have demanded). This has been Kim’s position all along, and, by the standards of arms-control accords struck over the decades by other countries, including the United States, it’s quite reasonable.
Nor should Kim’s firm grasp of the issues have come as a shock. Though he’s young and a barbaric dictator, he’s no idiot; he’s been out in the world, having been educated at a Swiss boarding school; he has been the driving force behind his country’s success in assembling a nuclear arsenal. And when it comes to nuclear weapons, studiousness is a family tradition. When his father, Kim Jong-il, met with President Clinton’s secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, in 2000, to hammer out a possible treaty to bar North Korea from building ballistic missiles, Albright’s staff members—who attended the meeting—were stunned that Kim had mastered every detail and could discuss them without consulting his own aides. (Clinton’s term ended before a deal could be reached; George W. Bush had no interest in resuming where Albright left off.)"
Trump’s last foray into arms-control negotiations doesn’t bode well for his Kim meeting.