Apr 21, 2018 - World

Kim Jong-un's art of dealing with Donald

Kim Jong-un

Kim Jong-un speaks Friday to the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea, in Pyongyang. Photo: North Korean government via AP

Kim Jong-un may have learned the art of dealing with President Trump: Give him a win — or at least what he thinks is a win, or can spin as a win.

Why it matters, via BBC: "The surprise announcement comes as North Korea prepares for historic talks with South Korea and the U.S.": Kim is due to meet his South Korean counterpart next week, and President Trump by June.

What happened: North Korean leader Kim Jong-un announced the country will stop conducting nuclear tests and launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles starting April 21, and shut down a nuclear test site in the north side of the country. Per BBC, Kim said further tests were unnecessary because Pyongyang's nuclear capabilities had been 'verified.'

Trump tweets: "This is very good news for North Korea and the World - big progress! Look forward to our Summit. ... Progress being made for all!"

Be smart, from a former National Security Council official under President George W. Bush: "Not a big deal to pause testing nuclear or missiles when summit is coming ... Totally reversible. Eye wash."

Victor Cha — senior adviser and Korea Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, who was Trump's candidate for ambassador to South Korea — tells Axios future editor Steve LeVine that the shift isn't as abrupt as it looks:

  • "They have already stated that they would halt all testing while in dialogue. This statement formalizes that promise."
  • "[T]he statement talks about a test ban, no first use, and no transfer — all the trappings of a 'responsible' nuclear weapons state (which is what they ultimately wanted to be accepted as)."
  • "Thus, this is not a denuclearization statement, it is a statement that DPRK [North Korea] can be a responsible nuclear weapons state."
  • The key sentence: "No one believes this, but if they can get Trump to agree, that is all they need."

What to watch for, per Cha: "[T]he glaring unanswered question in all of this is what the U.S. will give in return for these up front N.K. concessions."

  • "We know what we want from DPRK, but no one is scrutinizing what the US administration is thinking of giving up — sanctions? peace treaty? normalization? exercises? missile defense?"
Go deeper