Now that Mike Pompeo is knee-deep into the negotiations with Kim Jong-un and North Korea a decidedly different tone is being struck at the White House. Previous efforts at denuclearization of the Korean peninsula always seemed to involve discussions ranging from the harshest possible international sanctions to fire and fury like the world has never seen. Underlying all of it was, at least for some in the diplomatic and intelligence communities, the idea that Kim had to go. And why wouldn’t it, right? The guy is a madman. That’s probably the most commonly used term associated with his name for the past decade.
Not so much now. The President is tweeting out some very generous things about Kim’s offer to invite folks over to watch him blow up his nuclear testing facilities. When Pompeo was making the rounds of the Sunday shows he was talking about some very positive outcomes for the people of North Korea if we get the deal we want. And removing Kim from power wouldn’t be a consideration. (Boston Globe)
The United States is assuring North Korean leader Kim Jong Un his ouster is not part of the agenda for the summit next month between Kim and President Trump, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Sunday. ‘‘We will have to provide security assurances, to be sure,’’ Pompeo said on ‘‘Fox News Sunday.’’
The promise not to invade or otherwise seek Kim’s overthrow would be incentive for him to give up his nuclear weapons.
‘‘This has been a tradeoff that has been pending for 25 years,’’ Pompeo said, referring to the long history of failed negotiations with Pyongyang as well as the North Korean narrative that the United States is a mortal threat.
And what’s in it for Kim and his people if he completely dismantles all of his nuclear capabilities, including his warheads and missiles? Plenty.
Pompeo also said that if the summit leads to successful negotiations, the outcome will spur private investment in North Korea. He said it will include helping North Korea build its energy grid and develop agriculture so it can grow enough food for its people.
‘‘Those are the kinds of things that, if we get what it is the president has demanded – the complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization of North Korea — that the American people will offer in spades,’’ he said.
When Pompeo was heading the CIA he described “separating” Kim from North Korea as the most sensible move to ensure stability. And President Trump also has John Bolton as his National Security Advisor. That’s the same guy who only last year suggested that Korean reunification “under the control of South Korea” was the only profitable path to a secure future on the peninsula.
But now we’re talking about offering guarantees that nobody will unseat Kim. Granted, given the way the situation has been so volatile and shifting, it would likely be impossible to get a thing out of Kim Jong-un unless he had those assurances. From a strictly practical perspective I can see that. But this is still the same old Kim we’re talking about. He’s thrown us under the bus repeatedly. His promises in the past haven’t been worth the paper they’re printed on.
And yet, for all the unease I feel over these negotiations I don’t have a better solution to offer. Maybe this is simply what we’ll have to do. If Kim throws open the doors and invites the media and the IAEA into his country, destroys his nuclear weapons and ICBMs, guts his reactors and demolishes his testing facility, I guess he gets to keep his country. It seems jarring to pretend that we’re just going to forget his family’s entire history and start building them a 21st century nation in terms of technology and agriculture, but is that just the cost of peace?
Color me dubious. Kim has already walked down the nuclear trail all the way to the end so he knows his way now. If we set him up as a global trading partner with a modern electrical grid and robust farming and food distribution networks, his people will hail him as a hero yet again. And then, well fed and ready to fight, he could start the nuclear program up again – from scratch if need be – and get to the finish line far faster next time.
I’m not saying we abandon the talks and give up on the idea of peace, but I’m not popping any champagne corks just yet.