There are plenty of good reasons to worry about President Donald Trump meeting North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un, and plenty of smart people are worrying. But there are some upsides to the business that don’t seem yet to be getting enough attention—and for which the American government and the Trump administration aren’t yet getting enough credit.
It wasn’t a surprise. Peter Baker and Choe Sang-Hun reported in The New York Times that American intelligence agencies had reported the contents of a recent meeting between North and South Korean officials. That reflects some fine intelligence work. North Korea is a notoriously difficult place to gather intelligence, because it’s the world’s most unconnected country. Yet America’s intelligence agencies were able to penetrate a high-level (and therefore carefully screened) conversation.
The president’s policy deserves credit as well. The Times reports South Korean envoy Chung Eui Yong’s praise of the president as “flattery, which diplomats have discovered is a key to approaching the volatile American leader,” but it is also true that the administration’s policy of “maximum pressure” created this diplomatic opportunity. Foreigners may not have had to praise President Barack Obama to get his attention, but the problem of North Korea’s nuclear advances also did not have President Obama’s attention for the eight years of his presidency as the country’s nuclear programs progressed. Former Defense Secretary and Clinton administration envoy to North Korea William Perry has commended Trump administration policy; he had already concluded last summer that the Trump administration had created the first real opportunity for negotiations with North Korea since 1999.