It’s difficult to say with confidence whether Donald Trump’s scheduled meeting with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un will happen next month. The dictator halted the diplomatic process this week in response to U.S./South Korean military exercises; the White House’s “Libya model” rhetoric, as expected, isn’t going over well; and by some measures, National Security Advisor John Bolton is undermining the entire endeavor.
The Associated Press, meanwhile, reports that U.S. officials are scrambling to address the logistical issues surrounding the upcoming summit in Singapore, “gaming out policy plans, negotiating tactics, even menu items.”
The only person who doesn’t appear to be working hard on this is their boss. Time magazine reported yesterday:
With just one month until a scheduled sit-down with North Korea’s leader, President Donald Trump hasn’t set aside much time to prepare for meeting with Kim Jong Un, a stark contrast to the approach of past presidents.
“He doesn’t think he needs to,” said a senior administration official familiar with the President’s preparation.
Aides plan to squeeze in time for Trump to learn more about Kim’s psychology and strategize on ways to respond to offers Kim may make in person, but so far a detailed plan hasn’t been laid out for getting Trump ready for the summit.
This is very easy to believe.
Indeed, the report is very much in line with a piece Axios published a month ago, quoting people close to the president saying Trump is irrationally confident in his untested diplomatic abilities. A source who has discussed North Korea with the American president said, “He thinks, ‘Just get me in the room with the guy [Kim Jong-un] and I’ll figure it out.’”
This is not a smart approach to bilateral negotiations with a rogue, nuclear-armed dictatorship.
The Washington Post noted overnight that Trump’s critics “fear that a president determined to declare victory where his predecessors failed will allow his desire for a legacy-making deal to override the substance of the negotiations.”
To which Trump appears to be responding, “What substance of the negotiations?”