North Korea Summit

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North Korea Summit

President Donald Trump is scheduled to meet with Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader on June 12 in Singapore to discuss the possible denuclearization of North Korea. As tensions had escalated to what many believe the brink of war between both nations, the eyes of the world will certainly be on this extremely important event. A question to ask is “how did we get here?” The thought of the US and North Korea establishing a peaceful relationship is a most welcome idea in both countries as well as the rest of the world. But getting to this point has been a process and perhaps strategically planned by Kim Jong Un.

The Regime: North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is the son of former leader Kim Jong-il, who died in December of 2011. Jong-un assumed power immediately following his father’s death. He has shown to be a brutal dictator going to any lengths to maintain power, including imprisoning any who he would find threatening to his position, including members of his own family. In December of 2013, he ordered the execution of his uncle Chang Song-thaek and it is believed that the murder of his half brother Kim Jong-nam was also ordered by him. No one knows the exact number of North Koreans executed and imprisoned by the regime that has no tolerance for dissension from its citizens. The UN Commission of Inquiry had concluded that there were human rights violations such as murder, rape, enslavement, forced abortions and many other crimes against humanity committed by the North Korean government. As the negotiations proceed, these are issues that hopefully will not be brushed aside in the hope of reaching any agreement simply for political reasons here at home.

The Tactic: The North Korean leader’s primary goal is clearly to maintain power. Being mostly isolated from the world, he has relations with China and Russia as a buffer from the United States and for purposes of acquiring much needed financial aid. Now why would such a poor country with such limited resources invest so highly in a nuclear program? Do world leaders fear they would use their weapons to launch a first strike against the US or South Korea which would surely be disastrous and possibly the end of the regime? Perhaps their strategy was well conceived, to reach direct negotiations with the US and place themselves on a new higher level on the world stage. If that was their plan, then we can say it is playing out as they hoped. The idea of North Korea completely dismantling their weapons program seems to be suspect. The nuclear program and missile testing is in fact what is bringing the US to the negotiating table. It’s their “ace in the hole”; without this card to play, there isn’t much left to use as leverage to accomplish their goals.

We Want….What does the North Korean leadership want? Is it to simply live peacefully with South Korea and the US and open it’s doors to trade with other nations? Hopefully, yes. Most likely what Kim Jong-un wants is money. Whether through aid or foreign investment, he now has the status and ability to sit down and negotiate. To be able to negotiate, both parties need to be able to provide something and in his case it’s the dangling of the denuclearizing carrot. What does the US have to offer? Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has stated that the US can create conditions for American entrepreneurs and capital providers to engage with North Korea providing them much needed help in energy, agriculture equipment and technology. This is precisely what the North Korean regime is seeking.

Negotiating From A Position Of Power. This normally would not even be up for discussion. President Trump is the leader of the wealthiest most powerful nation on earth, so what weakness could there be on his part? The answer may be politics. President Trump has already stated that “everyone thinks” he should be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. It would be considered premature to make these statements as the summit has yet to take place. Another reason for him to be cautious with his words should be based on who he will be meeting with. Kim Jong-un has his own agenda, with the enrichment of his regime in mind. Something that observers will be looking for is if the President is more concerned with making a ‘deal’, not a ‘great deal’ but anything to deflect attention from his ongoing issues at home. Under normal circumstances, this wouldn’t be a part of the discussion, but as we are now entering the second year of the Mueller investigation and the constant chaos plaguing this White House, it is not implausible to wonder how much weight these issues carry headed into this summit. There are other concerns as well. Will the President succumb to flattery? He has shown this to be a weakness as in the example of Putin where the President stated that Putin said nice things about him. President Trump has also praised Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte who has been condemned by human rights organizations. The hope of those from all sides of the political spectrum is that President Trump not praise or flatter Kim Jong-un, to proceed with caution and know that he is a brutal murderous dictator that is not looking for flattery but is goal oriented, thus the strategy he has taken to get himself to this summit for a face to face with the President of the United States. To flatter or praise the North Korean leader would be an affront to American values and those who believe in freedom and liberty throughout the world. Americans and others should hope that President Trump is able to negotiate a “great deal’ as there is a great amount riding on the results.

Lou Dos Santos