Will Trump’s visit to North Korea lead to a nuclear deal?

Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un © BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images
Trump: first US president to visit North Korea

North Korean state media have hailed President Donald Trump’s “impromptu visit” to the country on Sunday as an “amazing event”, reports the BBC. Trump, who became the first sitting US president to set foot in the country, travelled to South Korea following the G20 summit in Japan, and on Saturday tweeted a message to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, suggesting a meeting at the border. Kim accepted.

As Trump “revelled” in his “historic” stroll, administration officials were “at odds” over what demands to make of Kim Jong-un as they prepared to restart negotiations on a nuclear deal, says Edward Wong in The New York Times. National security adviser, John Bolton, a “prominent hawk”, “reacted angrily” to a report about the possibility of an incremental approach, which would initially just ask for a freeze on nuclear activity.

However, negotiations stalled after a failed February summit at which Trump insisted that Kim give up his entire nuclear programme in exchange for sanctions relief. Trump has given Secretary of State Mike Pompeo responsibility for restarting negotiations and officials are considering allowing “more robust humanitarian aid” or some “limited economic exchanges between the North and South” in return for a freeze on Kim’s nuclear programme. Note, however, that South Korean president Moon Jae-in has been struggling to hold the North to its “most basic commitments” since his meeting with Kim in April 2018, says Andrew Jeong in The Wall Street Journal. This doesn’t bode well for “loftier promises”.

Trump’s methods are “unorthodox”, but since he remains “subject to the checks and balances of the US system”, he is able to make “big gestures that might engineer a diplomatic breakthrough”, says The Daily Telegraph. Sometimes, “force of personality and a willingness to take a risk pays off.”