The good news is that the Trump administration has adopted an approach toward North Korea that goes beyond trading insults, or missiles. They are going to talk.
The bad news? Donald Trump intends to do it himself.
“I’m elated and horrified at the same time,” said Jim Walsh, a senior research associate at the MIT Security Studies Program and a board member of the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation. “Elated because the parties are talking; horrified by the prospect of the two most unusual leaders in the world together in a room—what could possibly go wrong?”
Since there is no acceptable way to force Kim Jung Un into dropping his pursuit of a nuclear ICBM, talks are the least of our bad options. It moves us one step back from a shooting war. As I wrote in The Atlantic last summer, like it or not, acceptance, containment, and negotiation is the only sensible way to proceed.
So, why not have Trump and Kim meet? Direct talks between America’s and North Korea’s heads of state have never been tried, and nothing else has worked. A summit might be a good idea because it is unprecedented.
“My first reaction is: What is this meeting?” said John Plumb, a Navy submarine officer who served as a director of defense policy for the National Security Council under President Obama. “Because I can imagine a version of this meeting where everybody looks good by having a presidential-type meeting, and it doesn’t actually lead anywhere. You can see Kim Jung Un getting recognition on a world stage here, kind of a normalized head of state, Trump getting recognition for taking steps that haven’t been tried before and his willingness to throw himself into it, and if it doesn’t lead anywhere, frankly I think our president has himself pretty well covered ... because nobody really expects it to. That’s a meeting for appearances’ sake, and I don’t know how much value that has. But … why the hell not?”