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Trump goes it alone

May 04,2017
U.S. President Donald Trump said he would be “honored” to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un under the “right circumstances.”
“If it would be appropriate for me to meet with him, I would be honored to do it,” Trump told an interviewer. Although he didn’t spell out what the “right circumstances” would be — demonstrating evasiveness but also some sense of caution — we must note the use of the word “honored.”

Some see the comment as a gambit to pull Pyongyang to the negotiating table. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has also said that direct dialogue with Kim was possible if the goal is denuclearization.

Washington seems to consider maximum pressure that leads to engagement as a solution to the North Korean nuclear issue. Maybe it’s not a surprise that Trump, who has been bluntly hostile toward Pyongyang, suddenly turns engaging.

Although such reconciliatory remarks could be intended to set a mood for dialogue, summit talks between Washington and Pyongyang in the near future are highly unlikely. The “right circumstances” might refer to North Korea surrendering its nuclear weapons, an option Pyongyang would hardly consider.

Still, given the unpredictable ways of Trump, we cannot rule out the option of Trump attempting some kind of a deal with Pyongyang. Kim may agree to freeze his nuclear weapons program to earn rewards from Washington. In this way, the U.S. would be safe from the threat of missile attack from North Korea, and Kim could free his country from international sanctions. This would work perfectly well for China. That leaves us with a status quo living with nuclear arms threatening us. We must not let Washington go ahead with talks with Pyongyang that exclude Seoul. Foreign policymakers as well as aspirants to become the next president must closely watch the U.S. moves and prepare for responses.

JoongAng Ilbo, May 3, Page 26