In a single move on Thursday, Donald Trump instantly elevated North Korean leader Kim Jong Un by accepting an invitation to meet with him – with no preconditions mentioned by the White House – by May of this year.
BREAKING: South Korean official: Donald Trump says he will meet with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un by May.
— The Associated Press (@AP) March 9, 2018
According to The New York Times, “For Mr. Trump, a meeting with Mr. Kim, a leader he has derided as “Little Rocket Man,” is a breathtaking gamble. No sitting American president has ever met a North Korean leader, and Mr. Trump himself had ruled out direct talks unless North Korea takes measurable steps toward relinquishing its nuclear arsenal.”
It’s unclear when and where the meeting would take place, or what conditions would go along with it, but if the two men meet in North Korea, it would give a big boost to Kim Jong Un who seeks legitimacy more than anything else.
The White House confirmed that they accept North Korea’s invitation shortly after the South Koreans made the announcement:
WH response to Kim Jong Un: Pres Trump “will accept the invitation to meet with Kim Jong Un at a place and time to be determined.”@PressSec says “we look forward to the denuclearization of North Korea.”
“In the meantime, all sanctions and maximum pressure must remain.”
— Mark Knoller (@markknoller) March 9, 2018
South Korea did what Trump couldn’t do: Bring North Korea to the table
While the administration will likely take a victory lap for Thursday’s news, it is the diplomatic work of South Korea – acting as an intermediary – that brought North Korea to the table.
Trump, on the other hand, has spent more than a year tweeting reckless bluster, which has produced nothing but a not-so-clever nickname – “Little Rocket Man” – for the North Korean dictator. The biggest part Trump seemingly played in the whole thing was to set up a podium in front of the White House on Thursday for South Korean officials to announce what they were able to achieve.
While any news of the possible denuclearization of North Korea is good, it should be taken with caution. Trump’s ability to screw things up should not be underestimated, especially when he and Kim Jong Un are face to face later this year.