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North Korean leader Kim Jong-un attending a military parade. Photo: AFP / KCNA via KNS

Talks with North Korea present a long list possible pitfalls for the U.S. Since Kim Jong-un's offer, President Trump has exacerbated the risks by accepting the invitation outright, issuing overconfident statements and replacing the cautious Rex Tillerson with the pliant Mike Pompeo as secretary of state.

Why it matters: The State Department exists to ensure that the president arrives at summits like this with a strong hand, by nailing down favorable terms and negotiation strategy. Ignoring this expertise will see Trump striding blithely toward potential traps.

Pyongyang's likely gambits:

  1. Strengthen its rule by meeting with Trump on equal footing
  2. Convince Beijing that sanctions are no longer needed
  3. Exacerbate friction in the U.S.-South Korea alliance
  4. Roll back U.S. military presence in Korea
  5. Embarrass Trump by testing missiles before the summit

What's next: So far, the U.S. has only fallen into the first trap — but the others loom. The North Koreans can accomplish the rest by embarrassing Trump and causing him to walk away from the table first. Reneging on their commitment to South Korea to denuclearize could be enough, even if Pyongyang puts a modest but reasonable offer on the table. Or they could maneuver an impulsive president into committing to reduce U.S. forces on the peninsula.

Adam Mount is a senior fellow and director of the Defense Posture Project at the Federation of American Scientists.

Go deeper

Dave Lawler, author of World
1 hour ago - World

Venezuela's predictable elections herald an uncertain future

The watchful eyes of Hugo Chávez on an election poster in Caracas. Photo: Cristian Hernandez/AFP via Getty

Venezuelans will go to the polls on Sunday, Nicolás Maduro will complete his takeover of the last opposition-held body, and much of the world will refuse to recognize the results.

The big picture: The U.S. and dozens of other countries have backed an opposition boycott of the National Assembly elections on the grounds that — given Maduro's tactics (like tying jobs and welfare benefits to voting), track record, and control of the National Electoral Council — they will be neither free nor fair.

Biden plans to ask public to wear masks for first 100 days in office

Joe Biden. Photo: Mark Makela/Gettu Images

President-elect Joe Biden told CNN on Thursday that he plans to ask the American public to wear face masks for the first 100 days of his presidency.

The big picture: Biden also stated he has asked NIAID director Anthony Fauci to stay on in his current role, serve as a chief medical adviser and be part of his COVID-19 response team when he takes office early next year.