How Trump Can Deal with North Korea’s Pre-Summit Outburst

    Robert E Kelly

    Security, Asia

    A traffic sign is seen on the Grand Unification Bridge which leads to the truce village Panmunjom, just south of the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, in Paju

    There is no obvious answer for what the United States should surrender in exchange for what the North wants.

    This week’s North Korean outburst—threatening to derail the summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un—prompts some tough questions about what precisely we might be able to get out of the North at the Singapore summit. We likely need to dial down our expectations—a lot, in fact.

    To date, things seemed to be going well. The North has sent consistently good signals this spring. While its concessions were low-hanging fruit, or arguably not concessions at all, they did keep the momentum alive. Judged against last year’s rhetoric, this year has been progress. And the inter-Korean summit, while regrettably too thin on detail, raised expectations through its dramatic symbolism. South Korean President Moon’s approval rating is in the 80 percent range, and approval of the summit close to 90 percent. The hawkish pushback in South Korea so far has been tepid.

    In the United States, this enthusiasm arguably morphed into a triumphalism, particularly from Trump’s surrogates and devotees. Trump’s fans and sympathetic pundits began claiming, without much evidence, that North Korea had been bludgeoned into negotiating by Trump’s rhetoric and sanctions. Indeed, the curious notion that Trump should win a Nobel Peace Prize began to take hold, and the president clearly enjoyed the chants of ‘Nobel!’ at his campaign-style rallies. Just yesterday, Piers Morgan asked me if I thought Trump deserved two or just one Nobel.

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