Donald Trump’s immediate acceptance of a summit invitation from North Korea’s leader threw the foreign policy community and his own staffers for a loop. And by “threw for a loop,” we mean scurrying to plan for a summit that has no plan, no agenda, no venue, and a world leader (ours, not theirs) so famously unable to keep information in his head that his staffers have no idea what he’ll say when he gets there.
In the rush to prepare Trump for his meeting with Kim Jong Un in May, the White House is overseeing a frantic scramble to resolve even the most fundamental questions on the U.S. side: Where will the summit be? Who will be at the table? What should be on the agenda? […]
Trump administration officials said it is full-steam ahead, with high-level meetings between U.S., South Korean and Japanese officials taking place in Washington and California on Friday. At the White House, Trump spoke by phone with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who will have his own summit with Kim in Pyongyang in April. Trump reiterated his intention to meet with Kim in May, despite suggestions from some analysts that he delay the meeting and take more time to prepare.
Trump appears to be approaching the “summit” as an episode of the long-running reality show that is his life; he wants to do it because it will be dramatic, he has no particular strategy other than being dramatic, and—of the most concern to regional allies—he has little interest in any of the subjects to be negotiated, seeing them as nothing more than bargaining chips to be used to polish his own businessman credentials. So there is concern, among those allies, over what of theirs Trump might trade away in pursuit of a pleasing headline.
But that is probably not what will happen. What probably will happen is that North Korea will flatter and praise Trump, will put on a lovely parade for him full of the tanks and missile launchers he has been chafing to see parade down the streets of Washington, a buttered-up Trump will praise his hosts for the pomp, and whatever “agreements” are agreed to, if any are, will last no longer than his flight home.
It will be a coup for the North Korean regime, finally able to show their citizens video evidence that they are now a world power unto themselves, but the notion that the man who regularly, if unintentionally, sabotages his own Republican allies will bring a negotiated peace to the Korean peninsula seems, well, far-fetched.