Singapore Summit: Trump’s Optic Tricks and Kim Jong Un’s Status Needs

    Daniel R. DePetris

    Security, Asia

    U.S. President Donald Trump reacts after a news conference after his meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore June 12, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

    The Trump-Kim statement is a skinny list of generalized commitments without an ounce of meat on the bones.

    When the Trump administration announced by way of the South Korean national security advisor that President Donald had accepted North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s invitation to meet, the entire Beltway area couldn’t believe the news. Most of them agreed it would be an unprecedented gamble by Trump, and only the minority were actually comfortable with the idea. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and H. R. McMaster, the national security advisor at the time, were skeptical about the president’s decision and wondered whether he really understood what he was getting himself into.

    Trump would have none of it. He forged ahead with his plan, betting that his gut instinct and daredevil Houdini routine would be a winning combination on the issue of North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile program—an international problem that previous Republican and Democratic presidents have been unable to solve.

    The June 12 summit with Kim Jong-un that almost fell through the cracks was the biggest stage Trump has performed on so far in his presidency—maybe even in his entire life. Doubters and “haters” didn’t give him a chance, but Trump clearly thinks he has performed brilliantly. Sitting at a table next to Kim as he was putting his signature on a joint communique—one which states the Kim regime’s “firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula”—you could only imagine that chants of “Nobel! Nobel!” were going through Trump’s Head.

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