Something for Nothing

9 May 2018


Cogito Ergo Non Serviam

Kim Frees Three Americans Ahead of Trump Summit


The Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is returning from a quick trip to North Korea, where he had talks in preparation for a summit between North Korea's President Kim Jong-un and President Donald Trump. On his plane are three American citizens whom the North Koreans had detained under typically harsh conditions. This journal is thrilled for the men and their family and friends. At the same time, their release at this juncture should be setting off alarm bells in Washington. Mr. Trump has been given something for nothing, and that isn't consistent with Pyongyang's methods.

More likely, Mr. Kim probably realized that their freedom was worth much more to him than their continued detention. He has given Mr. Trump an amuse bouche to whet his diplomatic appetite. The North Koreans probably have a pretty good idea of what drives Mr. Trump personally. They have provided him a photo op on the world stage, welcoming freed Americans home. Mr. Trump will naturally view the North Koreans more favorably now.

This is not to say that Mr. Trump is going into a summit aching to give away the store (although one cannot rule it out). Instead, what the Kim regime has done is ensure that the discussions in the coming weeks begin on a positive note. It would have been easy for the summit to break down entirely over the fate of these three.

The main questions remain unanswered. What does Mr. Kim really want? What does Mr. Trump really want? Are their desires good for the region as a whole?

Complications are the enemy of successful negotiations, and a major complication arose yesterday when Mr. Trump pulled out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action [JCPOA], the Iran nuke deal. If Mr. Kim decides that he wants to walk out of the summit without a deal on the future of the Korean Peninsula, the American change of policy on the JCPOA gives him perfect cover. The Americans, he can say, are unreliable negotiating partners, and he cannot sacrifice the security of his government to wishful thinking.

What it boils down to is Mr. Kim arranging his pieces on the board to maximum advantage. Mr. Trump doesn't seem to have done the same in the least. Indeed, the JCPOA news suggests that he has a weaker hand to play now than he did on Monday. If the negotiating remains in the hands of professional diplomats, the result should be an outcome satisfactory to all parties concerned if there is a deal to be had. What one fears is that Mr. Trump will take over the discussions himself and go head-to-head with Mr. Kim. In his desire to get a deal, the American president will overlook some basic facts about the Korean Peninsula that will work to America's disadvantage. He doesn't do his homework; even his supporters admit it. Mr. Kim is quite different. One doesn't become dictator for life before one turns 30 by winging it.

This journal is pleased that fellow Americans are free and on their way home; yet one still has a sense of foreboding.

© Copyright 2018 by The Kensington Review, Jeff Myhre, PhD, Editor. No part of this publication may be reproduced without written consent. Produced using Ubuntu Linux.

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