Just one week after Donald Trump abruptly canceled his summit with Kim Jong Un, a flurry of diplomatic activity suggests the meeting is back on. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is meeting with one of Kim Jong Un’s top advisers, Kim Yong Chol, in New York, while lower-level U.S. officials huddle with their North Korean counterparts on the northern side of the demilitarized zone, to negotiate the summit’s substantive agenda. Simultaneously, in Singapore, U.S. and North Korea officials are deliberating over the event’s logistics. The summit may even still be on schedule. “We’re going to continue to shoot for June 12th and expect to do that,” Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said on Wednesday.
Then, on Thursday, Trump told reporters that Pompeo’s meetings in New York were going “very well” and that he expected Kim Yong Chol and the rest of the visiting North Korean delegation to make its way to Washington on Friday to give him a letter from Kim Jong Un. Never before has so much depended on a pair of pen pals.
When Trump initially canceled the summit by sending Kim Jong Un a remarkably personal letter, in which the president both threatened nuclear war and urged North Korea’s leader to “please … call me or write,” critics called it “an example of really bad letter-writing” that would “surely be studied in diplomatic academies everywhere” and likened it to “a 13-year-old’s stream of consciousness in a breakup letter from overnight camp.” But even if you accept those criticisms, one of the lessons of the past week is that sometimes it takes a really bad breakup letter to revive nuclear negotiations with North Korea.