As far as one can read the often impulsive decisions of US President Donald Trump, there have been no drastic changes in US-North Korea relations. Maybe such changes are in the making, maybe not, but right now things are at a standstill. All we know is that North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong Un, a.k.a. “Little Rocket Man,” has graciously invited Trump to a summit meeting, and that Trump, a.k.a. “mentally deranged dotard,” has accepted this invitation, without consulting anyone in the administration.
Given the fact that since becoming a dictator Kim has never braved foreign trips, while Trump may find it embarrassing to visit North Korea, where can they meet?
Can they meet in a third country, say, in Switzerland, China or Russia, that is less dangerous for Kim? I think, no. After all, having the president of the world’s leading superpower travel all the way to meet one of the world’s most notorious villains will dramatically upgrade the stature of the latter and downgrade the stature of the former. Let alone the problems of logistics, the world is too small politically to host a summit meeting between such antipodes.
But suppose the two can somehow find a place to meet, what are they going to talk about? Would Kim promise to eventually denuclearize and to rejoin the NPT? Would Trump trust him? And what would he offer in exchange? Would he perhaps offer North Koreans security guarantees? And would they trust him enough to accept this offer at face value?
Or maybe Trump would offer them diplomatic recognition? Would North Koreans be prepared to accept a bunch of American spies stationed right in the heart of their country and freely crossing the 38th parallel to get vital supplies from the South, thus making the DMZ line a formal international border?
Wishful thinking aside, North Korea will not denuclearize, because nothing guarantees its security more than nuclear weapons.
Therefore, trying to talk North Korea into denuclearization is absolutely futile. To do the trick the world will have to force it to denuclearize by applying all available carrots and sticks. It is as simple as that. So, after all, there is no feasible agenda for summit talks between the US and North Korea.
And yet two great powers – China and Russia – welcomed the idea of a US-North Korea summit meeting. China obviously sees it as a chance to pass a burden of sole responsibility for North Korea’s conduct to the US, while Russia was encouraged to discover that nuclear blackmail tactics, as it has been learning from North Korea lately, can really do wonders.
The author is the former deputy foreign minister of Russia (1991 to 1993) and Russian ambassador to the Republic of Korea (1993-1997).