President Donald Trump’s cheery outlook on the meeting between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and Chinese President Xi Jinping is about to be dampened by concerns from United States allies and officials within the Trump administration.
Trump tweeted about the secret meeting, claiming his administration’s efforts convinced Kim to seriously consider “denuclearization.”
For years and through many administrations, everyone said that peace and the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula was not even a small possibility. Now there is a good chance that Kim Jong Un will do what is right for his people and for humanity. Look forward to our meeting!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 28, 2018
However, things might not be as optimistic as Trump claims.
China’s meeting with Kim only cemented the uncertainty looming around Kim-Trump meeting as Trump officials did not have any idea the meeting was taking place until Kim was already in China. It also threatens China’s meddling and sends a message that China will certainly not be ignored as the U.S. looks to mend severe ties with North Korea.
Sources confirm Trump wants the meeting to definitely take place, despite being a bit apprehensive about a one-on-one meeting with Kim.
Japan, an important U.S. ally, is reportedly concerned regarding Trump’s outlook on the impending meeting (that is, if it actually takes place) and its potential traps.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will be meeting Trump at his Mar-a-Lago estate next month and his top most priority will be to discuss the president’s meeting with the North Korean leader, which was reportedly arranged on Abe’s instruction after he learned that Trump has accepted Kim’s request for a face-to-face meeting.
As Trump prepares for this historic meeting, some of his administration officials have serious doubts if the meeting will actually ever happen.
Previously, the government officials maintained the president will not hold talks with Kim until he takes “concrete steps” toward denuclearization but ever since Trump’s unexpected and abrupt acceptance of Kim’s invitation, they are making sure Trump does not walk into the meeting with undue high expectations, something that his tweet clearly hints at.
“I wouldn't say optimism is called for right now. I would be very cautious because ... what North Korea expects out of this summit and what the U.S. expects may not be potentially aligned. Optimism is the last word I would use for this,” said Sue Mi Terry, a former CIA analyst and North Korea expert.
The U.S. is planning for the potential summit with Mike Pompeo leading the pack. In fact, many attribute the diplomatic breakthrough to Trump’s closeness to Pompeo, who was tapped in by the president for secretary of state.
Trump recently ousted H.R. McMaster, his national security adviser in favor of John Bolton, an arch-hawk. Interestingly, Bolton has previously advocated bombing North Korea as the solution to the tension between the two states.
Bolton has warned against drawing out negotiations and has claimed the meeting will be cut short if Trump determines Kim is not “serious about denuclearization.”
With Bolton and Pompeo’s appointment, it is indeed likely the White House will take a harder line against North Korea, further fueled by Kim’s surprise visit to China.
Neither the White House nor North Korean officials have confirmed the meeting but according to Chinese state media Xinhua, Kim told President Xi he was open to summit talks with the U.S.
"If South Korea and the United States respond with good will to our efforts and create an atmosphere of peace and stability, and take phased, synchronized measures to achieve peace, the issue of the denuclearization of the peninsula can reach resolution," Kim said, according to Xinhua.
China’s role in the possible meeting between the two leaders is still under debate. According to some experts, the meeting with China proves Kim is open to diplomatic talks as he made his first visit as a state head. However, others are of view that China’s failure to inform the White House that a meeting with Kim was planned points toward potential Chinese meddling.
Trump shared a message from the secret meeting held in Beijing as Chinese ambassador, Cui Tiankai, traveled to Washington to brief officials about the meeting after it took place.
Received message last night from XI JINPING of China that his meeting with KIM JONG UN went very well and that KIM looks forward to his meeting with me. In the meantime, and unfortunately, maximum sanctions and pressure must be maintained at all cost!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 28, 2018
However, Trump’s promise to maintain sanctions despite sounding too buoyant about his meeting with Kim must come as breath of relief for Japan, who is reportedly concerned the meeting is a ploy to buy more time as North Korea continues to develop its nuclear program.
The meeting is likely to take place in the Demilitarized Zone on the Korean border or neutral countries like Sweden or Switzerland.
Thumbnail/Banner Credits: Reuters/Joshua Roberts/KCNA