Trump and Kim: a serious affair

The 12 June summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un may be back on after two weeks of “hard-nosed negotiating, including a communications blackout by the North and a public cancellation by the US”, say Catherine Lucey, Zeke Miller and Kim Tong-Hyung in The Washington Post.

On Tuesday, Trump confirmed that top North Korean official Kim Yong Chol was arriving in New York for talks with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and teams of US officials have already arrived in the Korean Demilitarised Zone and Singapore. The White House is now characterising Trump’s missive as a negotiating tactic, designed to bring Kim back to the table in a more constructive mood.

We should be less concerned about whether the summit will go ahead than what will happen if it does, says William Hague in The Daily Telegraph. Trump’s objective is to end the nuclear threat and bolster his chances of re-election. Kim’s objective is to “stay in power for life” while dividing the alliance against him, comprising the US, South Korea, Japan and much of the world. There are three possible outcomes of a summit, and in each Kim wins.

In the first, talks break down because Kim’s apparently “generous” offer falls short of satisfying the US: Kim is no worse off but Trump “gets the blame”. In the second, they come to a staggered agreement to reduce tensions, peaceful intentions are declared and economic co-operation increased. Americans feel safer but Kim’s existing arsenal mean that his neighbours don’t.

In the third, Kim agrees to denuclearisation and US forces leave the peninsula. Sanctions end, the North opens up economically and Kim receives a security guarantee and a closer alliance with China to save himself from the fate of Muammar Gaddafi. North Korea would still be stronger than the South militarily and China would be the long-term beneficiary of a US withdrawal. The last option isn’t a possibility, says Jennifer Rubin in The Washington Post. However, if the two leaders can make progress towards “real talks” and “concrete objectives”, the “region and the world will be a safer place”. Surely it’s “worth a shot”.