It was just eight days ago that Donald Trump, citing “tremendous anger and open hostility” from Pyongyang, canceled his summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, originally scheduled for June 12 in Singapore.
The American president did, however, leave the door ajar. In his letter to the dictator, Trump added, “If you change your mind having to do with this most important summit, please do not hesitate to call me or write.”
President Donald Trump announced the decision after a historic and lengthy Oval Office meeting Friday with Kim Yong Chol, who is the top deputy to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
“We’ll be meeting on June 12th in Singapore,” Trump told reporters at the White House. But he also said that it would be hard to reach a deal from a single summit in less than two weeks.
“I don’t see that happening,” he said. “…It will be a beginning. I’ve never said it happens in one meeting.”
Trump went on to say that Kim Jong-un had sent him a letter, which the Republican described as “very nice,” though he also acknowledged that he hadn’t yet read it. (The White House later claimed that the president has, in fact, read the correspondence.)
As for the prospect of the June 12 summit being “a beginning,” there’s nothing necessarily wrong with a gradual process. That said, it’s something of a mystery what the White House hopes to accomplish when the two leaders meet in 12 days. Kim will certainly get what he wants – the international legitimacy that comes with a bilateral meeting alongside the ostensible Leader of the Free World – but Trump apparently sees this as a “getting-to-know-you-plus meeting” that will set the stage for future talks.
It suggests the Singapore summit, on a substantive level, won’t amount to much beyond a photo-op long sought by North Korea, though it may eventually lead to something more tangible.
As for the politics of this, it’s a safe bet Trump will go back to bragging – he’s long characterized agreeing to the meeting as an accomplishment unto itself – though I’ll be eager to hear the reactions from Republicans who praised the president last week for pulling the plug on the summit.
After Trump’s announcement last week, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), for example, praised the American president, calling Trump’s move “100% the right decision.” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters told reporters soon after, “I think he did the right thing.”
Now that Trump is doing the opposite, does that make it the wrong thing?