North Korea Tests Trump

North Korea said it was willing to abandon its nuclear weapons if the security of its regime is guaranteed, Seoul’s envoy said Tuesday after meeting with the North’s leader Kim Jong Un.”

One cannot count on the accuracy of reported diplomatic conversations. One cannot count on the meaning of the content of these communications when placed in larger contexts, subject to bargaining. One can surely not count on the interpretations of them that come out of any capitol, including Washington.

That said, this is big news. This is a test for Trump, a key test. Will he respond seriously, as it appears he should; or will he throw sand in the gears of what appears to be a North-South attempt at getting together on a deal that’s good for everyone, including the U.S.?

This statement means, I think, that N. Korea probably wants (a) U.S. troops to withdraw from S. Korea, (b) an end to the joint military exercises of the U.S. and S. Korea, (c) an end to sanctions, (d) no missiles in S. Korea pointed at the North, (e) a full-fledged peace treaty, with (f) a guarantee of recognition of N. Korea and its legitimacy. The U.S. will probably balk at this and see nuclear extortion in it. The U.S. would want continuous inspections to assure abandonment of any nuclear weapons and programs. The U.S. might want to stop N. Korean arms sales to places like Iran. North Korea wouldn’t agree to that.

The U.S. would get removal of a threat out of the deal, to itself, to S. Korea and to Japan. It would remove a serious irritant and headache. It would free up armed forces and provide a significant cost saving. It would gain an option of eventual Korean reunification, and that’s a significant win as it thwarts both Russia and China geopolitically.

North Korea’s “offer” or “trial balloon” tests Trump. How will he respond? This is a key test of his presidency. He can secure a great victory for himself if he carries this forward to an agreement. It would become a big feather in his cap, a signal accomplishment, and render ineffective a great deal of criticism directed at him.

I can’t see any reason for not opening negotiations based upon this offer. There were no preconditions reported in the press account. Let’s hope that there are none, and let’s hope that the U.S. does not impose its own preconditions.

If the U.S. brushes this communication aside, on any basis, it’s a big, big mistake.

Abundant positive signals are coming from Korea. A host of new moves is present. These include a moratorium in testing during talks and further contacts between the two Koreas. If the U.S. does not respond in kind, it will be a sad day and a very, very bad reflection on the Trump administration.


12:23 pm on March 6, 2018