President Donald Trump spoke on the telephone Saturday to South Korean President Moon Jae-in to discuss his worry that North Korea is not serious about reaching an agreement on denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Recent statements from North Korea have thrown uncertainty into the planning for the upcoming summit between Trump and Kim Jong Un in Singapore in June.
By placing the call to the to the South Korean leader Trump has shown that he is nervous that the summit may not happen which would be a devastating public relations loss for him. Trump has been bragging about how he was going to bring world peace and accomplish things that no other American president has ever done. He even went along with Moon’s suggestion that he might be deserving of a Nobel Prize.
But Kim Jong Un is not going along with Trump’s and Moon’s plan to make themselves look good. Since he had talks with Kim, and since the summit was announced, Moon’s popularity at home has skyrocketed. Trump’s approval ratings have also been creeping upwards as he has looked more like a real world statesman lately instead of a deranged crazy person.
So the 30-minute phone call between the two presidents was confirmation that they both have a lot at stake, and they feel that North Korea’s statements over the past week may threaten all of their accomplishments.
According to first-hand reports, on the call Trump asked for Moon’s interpretation of Kim’s shift to a hard-line position after initially appearing that he was willing to go along with the U.S. position in the negotiations. Moon’s response to Trump’s inquiries has not been reported.
It is known, however, that the anxiety level inside the White House is very high. The summit is just three weeks away and the agenda for the meeting has not yet been finalized. In fact, there are many very important open issues which must be resolved before the meeting can even happen. One of these is the topic of denuclearization: what does it mean to each party, and what does each party want to see happen? Nobody seems to know the answer to these questions, and it appears that neither side may be willing to compromise very much.
The fact is that the summit may not happen, and if it does, it may be a disaster. Kim has already gotten concessions from Trump, including the very fact of agreeing to a summit, which no U.S. president has ever done before. It gives the appearance that Kim is in charge, and he knows that Trump is desperate for a political “win.”
By threatening to call off the summit, Kim may be trying to get even more concessions from Trump, which is a cause of great concern among Trump’s advisers and the national intelligence community.
Nobody trusts Kim Jon Un or the North Korean government. National Security Adviser John Bolton has intimated that he hopes the summit doesn’t even happen. He has even stated publicly his opinion that the best approach would be a military first strike to take out North Korea’s nuclear weapons.
Donald Trump has placed incredible importance on the upcoming North Korea summit, and if it falls through, or if it is a failure, it would be extremely embarrassing and would cost him political support as well.
The president’s latest call to Moon of South Korea is just one more example of a desperate man making desperate moves to save his presidency.
I am a lifelong Democrat with a passion for social justice and progressive issues. I have degrees in writing, economics and law from the University of Iowa.