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By Nancy Thorner & Ed Ingold – 

As announced on Thursday, March 8th, 2008, President Trump has agreed to sit down with his North Korean nemesis Kim Jong Un sometime in the next two months to discuss stripping the hermit nation of its nuclear arsenal.

This historic meeting was brokered by the South Korean government and delivered to the White House, outside the West Wing, by South Korean national security director Chung Eui-yong, who related that Kim Jong Un had expressed his eagerness to meet with President Trump as soon as possible.  The place and time of the meeting is still to be determined.

According to Chung, the North also agreed to suspend nuclear and missile tests during such future talks, which is a longstanding US demand. Trump’s goal is to achieve permanent denuclearization, not just a freeze.  Trump likewise expressed that the sanctions will remain in place until an agreement is reached.

The relationship between the two world leaders has been downright nasty at time, with Trump repeatedly calling Kim “Little Rocket Man” and Kim dubbing the president a “mentally deranged US dotard.”

A Difficult Row to Hoe

Trump is right about North Korea.  America and North Korea were on a collision course, but it never made sense to launch a military strike against the isolated country North Korea with its crazed leader without first having tried diplomacy.  As many times reiterated, such a strike would cause tens of thousands of casualties in both South and North Korea.

Trump will be talking with the leader of a nation that has a considerable nuclear arsenal and has made impressive missile tests.  Kim might negotiate, but behind the scenes he could continue working to perfect an intercontinental nuclear missile that can reach this nation.  Furthermore, is Kim even willing to trade his nuclear program for peace when he considers his nuclear force necessary to preserve his regime’s security?  Then too, would Kim keep his word if Trump could convince Kim to denuclearize?

Three successive U.S. presidents, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama, have dealt with the threat posed by North Korea’s weapons tests. Each acted in the same way, removing sanctions almost immediately, based on promises which were never kept. There is no evidence Korea’s nuclear development ever hesitated or slowed down. It was publicly restarted each time after real or imagined affronts to the regime.  Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush made agreements with Kim’s father which were violated, but the son, Kim Jong Un, like his father, seems determined to become a nuclear power.

Lessons Learned?

In Tennessee they say you don’t learn much the second time you get kicked by a mule.

Trump could make the same mistake if he acts based on promises. On the other hand, verification through unrestrained inspections would be effective. It might be difficult to re-impose sanctions if North Korea defaults, but there are military options the previous presidents never even considered or voiced, nor would that response necessarily come close to a nuclear option.  60 cruise missiles took out the Syrian Air Force. Last fall, the US Navy took delivery of nearly 800 cruise missiles in the Far East. One can only guess how many they had on hand, but munitions aren’t distributed on a KanBan basis (a Japanese innovation for inventory control – from delivery truck to the assembly line, just in time). In the interim, Trump has pledged to keep all the sanctions in place until a verified solution is in place. The most effective sanctions, banking and shipping intervention, are under unilateral US control.

Direct talks between leaders of the two nations is a new twist, one which lends gravitas to the status of North Korea’s dictator. Trump needs to think twice and speak once (for a change) and have trusted advisors on hand (and listen to them). Unlike Kerry in Iran, Trump must be prepared to walk out if the talks aren’t going anywhere. Fortunately, that’s not how a New Yorker bargains.  If the deal isn’t good, Trump will walk out. With his predecessors any deal was better than no deal. On the other hand, meeting directly with the US President adds gravitas to the status of Kim Jong Un. Good and bad. It is a boost to his ego, but changes nothing politically, and may make him more receptive to concessions.

Firing of Rex Tillerson a positive move

A good move by President Trump on Tuesday, March 13 was the firing of Rex Tillerson who wasn’t on the same wave length policy-wise as President Trump. They didn’t see eye to eye on some very important issues, including the dirty Iran nuclear deal, North Korea, and Russia. Tillerson was also an advocate for the Paris Accord and the carbon tax.  In addition to not sharing Trump’s views, Tillerson verbally expressed disrespect toward President Trump.

Contrary to what is being reported, The White House says Chief of Staff John Kelly spoke with the now-former Secretary of State Tillerson on Friday and Saturday (March 9 and 10) to say that the President wanted him to resign. When Tillerson refused, he was fired.

Michael Pompeo, who has served as  Director of the Central Intelligence Agency since January 23, 2017,  having been nominated by President Donald Trump to that position, was chosen to replace Tillerson as Secretary of State.  Mike Pompeo earned praise from members of both parties by strengthening intelligence gathering, modernizing our defensive and offensive capabilities, and building close ties with our friends and allies in the international intelligence community.  It was reported that President Trump decided to make the change in order to have a new team in place before a planned summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in the spring.  Accordingly, President Trump is expected to lean heavily of Mike Pompeo  as talks with North Korea soon take center stage on the diplomatic front.

Popcorn, anybody?