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Outsiders vs. Insiders: Trump’s meeting with Kim Jong-un is a win-win, but only for U.S.

Washington (and the nation) was abuzz last week with the news President Donald Trump accepted an invitation from North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un to meet face-to-face in May. The announcement shocked nearly everyone considering it wasn’t all that long ago Trump demanded ramped-up sanctions against the rogue communist nation and still occasionally refers to Jong-un as “Little Rocket-man”.

Nevertheless it appears the two will sit down together in a couple months. What they’ll discuss is anybody’s Jong un Trumpguess but there are signs the heretofore intractable North Korean regime is beginning to crack under the diplomatic pressure applied by President Trump. Unlike his predecessors Trump never beat around the bush with Jong-un, threatening various forms of reprisal for North Korean aggression including the possibility of allowing NORK enemies South Korea and Japan to arm themselves with nukes.

As would be expected, the White House said it’s getting exactly what it planned for.

Gabby Morrongiello of the Washington Examiner reported, “The White House on Friday rejected arguments that President Trump is giving North Korea a political win by agreeing to meet with Kim Jong Un, and said the meeting will not take place until Pyongyang takes ‘concrete steps’ toward denuclearization.

“’The president is getting exactly what he wants. He is getting the opportunity to have the North Koreans actually denuclearize. Nothing is changing on the United States position,’ said press secretary Sarah Sanders.

“’I definitely don't think that the president is getting nothing when we've already said ... that the president will not have the meeting without seeing concrete steps and concrete actions,’ she added.”

In other words, Trump is leaving himself an “out” should he change his mind on the wisdom of assenting to Jong-un’s overture or if the American president suspects this is just the latest in a long line of North Korean propaganda moves in trying to make American leaders look weak and gullible (which was much easier when Obama was president).

It’s curious how many in the media label this encounter as a potential “trap”, but how so? Trump is one of the world’s shrewdest and most experienced negotiators and in this case, he enters the get-together with by far the strongest opening position. Jong-un’s proven he has the capacity to detonate nuclear bombs and might even possess the ability to deliver them but that doesn’t mean the U.S. doesn’t have a trick or two up its sleeve in terms of defensive measures.

And it’s not like Trump plans to give away the store to the North Koreans or supply Jong-un with everything the cheese munching rocket-man would ever want. The Trump-Jong-un event is already being called a “summit” but the feeling isn’t quite the same as when Ronald Reagan met with Mikhail Gorbachev over 30 years ago, put it that way. The Soviet Union was the true “evil empire” with the capacity to annihilate the entire West at the push of a few buttons.

In attaching unwarranted dread to Jong-un perhaps people forget what the “real” Cold War was like. Even Hollywood produced numerous movies about the Soviet threat and I remember as a teenager being genuinely concerned about the future with missiles at the ready. Anyone recall the Matthew Broderick movie “Wargames” and the Patrick Swayze film “Red Dawn”? Or how about Sylvester Stallone’s “Rambo” running through the jungles of Vietnam taking on the Russians and the Chinese?

The entertainment industry doesn’t take North Korea seriously – does today’s culture really worry about him? Heck, we have one of our two major parties claiming climate change is the biggest national security threat to the United States – as if the ocean rising a couple millimeters is a greater risk than Jong-un tossing around a missile or two.

Of course Jong-un’s full capability isn’t known but it’s highly doubtful he has the power to blow up the entire planet. At best Jong-un’s reach is regional and besides, he’s a comparatively small pest compared with the Chinese dragon that resides next door to North Korea. Everything Trump does is with an eye towards dealing with the real menace, China.

There are a number of incentives for Trump to try and convince the NORKs to de-nuclearize but the status quo is acceptable for America whereas it might not be for Jong-un. Various reports allege the North Korean economy is on the verge of collapse (if hasn’t already, decades ago) and it could be the dictator realizes his position will never get any stronger than it is now.

Perhaps the biggest mystery for Trump is -- where is China in all of this? Are the Chinese working behind the scenes to get Jong-un to cooperate for its own benefit? It may strictly be a coincidence, but the North Korean peace overtures coincided with Trump’s executive action to boost tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. The new taxes apply to every nation except Mexico and Canada -- but it’s clear to anyone with knowledge that Trump was truly targeting China.

It’s an arguable point but China needs U.S. markets a lot more than American consumers need Chinese products. If America isn’t buying Chinese exports, then the Asian country loses billions upon billions. A genuine trade impasse could throw China into a severe recession.

It’s hard to see the downside for America in all of this. The United States will be fine regardless of whether the “summit” produces tangible results. But will North Korea?

Jim Geraghty wrote at National Review, “Maybe we should start with the question, “What do we want regarding North Korea?” To eliminate its nuclear program? To topple the regime? To liberate its people? Or is it merely to avoid what would probably be a devastating war?

“Nicholas Grossman, international-relations professor at the University of Illinois, offers three bold ideas for Trump on today: Offer a withdrawal of U.S. troops from South Korea; normalize U.S. relations with North Korea as a nuclear state (like with China or Russia); or be prepared to walk away from the table and accept the status quo.

“Is this a good idea? It all depends upon whether it works. If, six months from now, after some high-profile meetings we’re in the same situation, then it means we gave the North Koreans something they wanted, only to get conned again. But if, by some miracle, they are willing to give up the nukes — and allow inspections to ensure compliance! — then the Trump administration will be able to point to a jaw-dropping diplomatic accomplishment.”

To reiterate, the North Koreans are the ones with everything on the line here. Should they “convince” Trump to withdraw U.S. troops from South Korea in exchange for verifiable denuclearization -- that’s a win for both sides. The United States should consider calling home its troops in any case; there’s no longer any rationale for them to be there. South Korea has more than enough conventional capability to defend itself against a North Korean strike and the United States is never far away from a rapid response through the air.

Let the South Koreans defend themselves; they can do it more than adequately. It’s not that complicated.

Should the Trump/Jong-un talks fail the U.S. is no worse off than it was last month or last year, staring across from a rogue regime with an unpredictable despot who oppresses his people and pretends he’s more important than he really is.

It's conceivable Jong-un is doing all of this to weaken Trump politically, figuring if he meets with the American president and keeps his weapons that the American media will blame Trump for the impasse. If this is the scenario Jong-un’s sadly mistaken. Trump is seen as already benefitting from his strong stance on North Korea. Any further progress is gravy.

Roger L. Simon wrote last week at PJ Media, “Only someone who is a credible threat can deal with tyrants, can get them to cooperate. It's always been that way. Nixon could go to China. Reagan tore down that wall.

“Barack Obama, another complete failure with the North Koreans, was an even bigger patsy for Iran's mullahs, ceding them millions (of dollars) with which to rape and pillage across the Middle East, murdering thousands while sending more millions (of humans) as refugees into Europe, altering the character of that continent most likely forever. No one with a brain believed he would back up that red line against chemical weapons in Syria and he didn't. (Good job, Barack.)

“Trump, on the other hand, and as we have seen, even when his own party is against him, is a man of his word. From tariffs to tax reform to moving the embassy to Jerusalem to the Supreme Court, he follows through -- or tries to.”

There’s no reason to believe Trump will not keep his word here. In his piece (above) Geraghty suggested Trump is a “terrible” negotiator because he (as revealed by the recent White House gun control talks with Democrats) often gives away everything to make the opposition happy. Yet Trump realizes the art of the possible better than anyone else. You can put your opponent at ease by pretending to be on his side when you’re really about to stick a knife in his back.

If you don’t believe it take a look at Vladimir Putin and his dealings with George W. Bush and Obama. Or ask Trump’s Republican opponents in the 2016 GOP primary race.

Trump loves defying convention; if there’s anything that defines his political philosophy it’s taking what the establishment favors or approves of and then doing the opposite. So far it’s worked well for him.

Michael Crowley wrote at Politico, “[Trump's decision to meet with Kim] spotlighted an instinct that has defined Trump’s early foreign policy: say the things others wouldn’t say; do the things they didn’t dare.

“’He likes to be the first. He likes doing things no one has ever done before,’ one senior Trump official said.

“Trump’s taboo-breaking instinct was most recently on clear display in his December decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel — a pledge several presidents had made but, on the counsel of advisers and fellow world leaders, decided to shelve. Trump officials say that was a key factor behind the president’s thinking, something he made clear in a Dec. 6 statement from the White House: ‘While previous presidents have made this a major campaign promise, they failed to deliver,’ Trump said. ‘Today, I am delivering.’”

Yes indeed. Even if Trump’s upcoming tête-à-tête with Kim Jong-un turns out to be a nothing burger at least it could be said he made the effort. Let the elites hold up their noses – they never accomplish anything anyway.

For all we know Kim Jong-un offered the meeting because he wants a cool vacation someplace other than his economically decimated home capital and thinks the cuisine there will be far superior to the bugs and other refuse he regularly consumes because his country is bankrupt.

If I were Trump the first thing I’d do is offer Kim Jong-un a big hunk of cheese instead of an olive branch. The North Koreans aren’t interested in peace as much as the opportunity to persuade the U.S. to roll back its crippling economic sanctions. We’ll see how it all turns out.

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