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DUFAULT: North Korean summit a cautious opportunity

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Donald Trump and the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un are scheduled to meet for the first time. The president announced that he would be meeting with Jong Un in an upcoming summit to discuss denuclearization, among other topics. This is an opportunity to try to smooth over relations with the authoritarian regime, something that the United States hasn’t exactly been trying to do since Trump’s inauguration.

What’s perplexing is how this summit is occurring in the first place. Who could forget the heated exchanges between the two leaders that occurred only months ago. For a while, it seemed like our two countries were on the brink of nuclear war. Now, the North Korean government has agreed to discuss denuclearization with the man who previously called its leader “short and fat.”

Despite these talks, it is important to be realistic. North Korea has been building its nuclear arsenal since the 1990s, and nuclear attacks have been the base of the nation’s threats against the U. S. and its aggressive policy toward the regime. After all of the insults and threats, it is highly unlikely that North Korea has any intention of giving up its nuclear arsenal.

Furthermore, North Korea has pledged to denuclearize before. Notably in 1994, when then-leader Kim Jong Il assured the Carter administration that North Korea would stop nuclear development. Considering the dilemma today, that was a lie. There is no reason to believe the regime would not try the same tactic again.

With this summit, North Korea is likely attempting to manipulate American leaders into believing that the regime could commit to meeting U.S. demands. It appears to be a public-relations move, something that might convince the United States to yield its aggressive policy toward the authoritarian state.

The Olympics made it clear that the regime’s ultimate goal is reunification. The United States, with its military presence in the Korean Peninsula, is one of the major obstacles to accomplishing that.

Jong Un will likely use this summit to mislead the United States into removing its military presence, which obviously can’t happen. Trump cannot allow himself to be manipulated into loosening sanctions on North Korea.

Mr. Trump’s policy on North Korea has been more aggressive than past presidents, and it has led to pettiness by both sides. Now, Trump has an opportunity to establish a more professional relationship between the two states. Though the leaders disagree on many subjects, communication through diplomacy is worlds better than spats over social media.

If the president continues to promote his policies, then this could be a diplomatic breakthrough for the administration. The meeting could be Trump’s finest accomplishment in his presidency thus far, and could display his capability as a diplomatic leader.

With Trump’s approval rating clocking in at a measly 40 percent, a positive outcome at the summit could boost the public’s confidence in the president.

Historically, the United States has made deals with authoritarian states that have been unpopular among the American public. This is because making deals with non-democratic regimes is against U.S. values. If Trump plans on making some sort of mutual agreement with Jong Un, he best tread lightly if he wishes to salvage his public perception.

Instead of making mutual agreements, it would be valuable to further promote the United States as serious with its threats. This does not mean threatening war if the regime doesn’t agree to denuclearization, but Trump should be sending a message that North Korea is walking a very thin line.

But the summit is still advantageous. There’s plenty of diplomatic advantages to holding the summit, and it has the potential to affect North Korean-American relations for years to come. This all depends on if Trump understands Jong Un’s ultimate goals.

Trump’s unpredictability will have some influence on the summit’s outcome, but his stance on North Korea is his strongest.

Despite the surprising and hopeful nature of the meeting, it cannot distract the United States from the very serious threats North Korea has made in the past. North Korea’s sudden change-of-heart toward the U.S. should cause the Trump administration to be  cautious. This summit will either turn a new leaf or go horribly, nothing in between.

 

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