The tentative summit between Donald Trump and North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un would be an historic occasion: the first time an American president has met with a North Korean leader.
North Korea has long sought a meeting with an American president, yet in the wake of the Korean War, the United States has refused to recognize North Korea as a legitimate nation. Trump’s meeting with Kim Jong Un to discuss North Korea’s shuttering of its nuclear program would be a recognition and, therefore, validation of North Korea.
But according to some analysts, the summit comes with a lot of risks.
Suzanne DiMaggio, a senior fellow at New America, offered her assessment on Twitter:
It will have to be managed carefully with a great deal of prep work. Otherwise, it runs the risk of being more spectacle than substance. Right now, Kim Jong Un is setting the agenda and the pace, and the Trump administration is reacting. The administration needs to move quickly to change this dynamic.
According to South Korean officials, when they approached the Trump administration to discuss the possibility of a meeting between the two petulant man-children, Trump agreed almost immediately without any preconditions. The summit is expected to occur sometime before the end of May; however, with such a short time frame to prepare, analysts are concerned that the result could end up having little impact on U.S.-North Korean relations.
Part of the issue is staffing: the Trump administration has been notoriously slow to fill key diplomatic positions – precisely the kinds of positions that Trump needs filled in order for the summit to bear any meaningful fruit. Last week, Joseph Yun, the U.S. envoy in charge of negotiating with North Korea, resigned, and though Trump has been in office for 14-plus months, he has yet to nominate an ambassador to South Korea.
Bonnie Glaser, an expert on Asia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, echoed DiMaggio’s concerns. “The U.S. side needs to be very, very well prepared and know exactly what it wants to achieve, as well as what the U.S. is willing to provide in return.”