In what week does a big announcement about tariffs on major countries take a back seat? When a truly significant geopolitical event takes place that week. And the two may be related.
Think about how the world has begun to look at President Trump. His main attribute for his American supporters has been his authenticity. For the rest of the world, it is fast becoming his commitment to do what he has said, what he campaigned on. That began crystallizing when President Trump was able to corral the Republicans to pass the Tax Reform bill, something the GOP has not been able to do for 30+ years. Now the rest of the world sees global capital flowing into America to build plants & factories thanks to a steep drop in corporate tax rate from 35% to 21%, immediate expensing of new capital spending and cheap natural gas, so cheap that Europe & Asia can never get there.
Then came his announcement of Trade Tariffs, something his own party cannot stand either in principle or in fact. These trade tariffs were unanimously condemned by all other countries & they could boomerang on US economy. But that didn’t bother President Trump. He had campaigned on it; he had promised to use tariffs to get better trade deals for American workers. So he went ahead with it. The world saw this and realized again that President Trump will act on what he promises publicly.
Kim Jong Un saw it & understood it. In fact, he might be the one guy who understands President Trump. He knows that President Trump had promised to “solve” the North Korean nukes problem and, based on all indications, he believes it. And he feels it in the relentless ratcheting of sanctions that are causing grave discomfort in North Korea. According to a report in Geopolitical Futures,
- ” … a South Korean intelligence assessment last month purportedly claimed the North’s hard currency reserves will run out by October. An unconfirmed report citing Chinese sources in January said Kim Jong Un had all but drained the slush fund dedicated to nuclear and missile development. By most accounts, China has been complying with its sanctions commitments by pinching off imports of critical North Korean commodities and capping oil exports across the Yalu River.”
Kim Jong Un knows the next step for President Trump if sanctions don’t work well or fast. Yes, South Korea is highly opposed to an attack by America on the Kim regime because they are directly in harm’s way. But Kim knows that, as Geopolitical Futures put it, “the U.S. still has an imperative to prevent North Korea from obtaining weapons that could strike the U.S. mainland, meaning Pyongyang cannot be certain that the U.S. can be held at bay indefinitely.”
That changes the calculations for Kim. The relentless drive to build a nuclear capability against US mainland was to guarantee the survival of his regime. But now that drive for survival could itself become the trigger for his regime’s destruction. Kim knows that he is not Saddam Hussein of 1990 and President Trump is not senior President Bush. So Kim knows that an attack by America will result in the end of his regime.
Therefore, we think, Kim used the window of opportunity provided by the Winter Olympics & the emerging entente with South Korea to ask for a meeting with President Trump. Not just a meeting but a meeting to discuss the denuclearization of North Korea. This is what President Trump wanted and he seized the opportunity.
- Donald J. TrumpVerified account @realDonaldTrump Kim Jong Un talked about denuclearization with the South Korean Representatives, not just a freeze. Also, no missile testing by North Korea during this period of time. Great progress being made but sanctions will remain until an agreement is reached. Meeting being planned!
Understand the planned meeting is diametrically opposite of normal Presidential summits. Traditionally, middle level diplomats hash out agreement/disagreement, develop the agenda for the summit. Senior diplomats approve or make changes to the plan. Only when all the details are planned & agreed upon, do the leaders meet.
That process would absolutely not work between North Korea & America. Kim is NOT going to entrust the responsibility to any underling and he is NOT going to agree to anything before he meets President Trump. That suits President Trump. He knows the failed history of past three Presidential Administrations. Heck, even the Mafia knew that only the Dons make peace or war and that depends on taking the measure of the other Don in a face to face meeting. Remember the Don Corleone – Don Barzini meeting from the Godfather?
Also Kim is not going to bargain away his hard earned nuclear capability simply for sanctions relief and financial aid. He has to get ironclad guarantees for his regime’s survival. President Trump is not going to settle for some freeze on Kim’s nuclear capabilities that could be reversed later. He is going to insist on complete dismantling of Kim’s nuclear capability and ensure it is never regenerated.
There are several ways this deal can be struck and there are other players who have to get positive benefits from it. None of this works without an entente of sorts between South Korea and North Korea. And China has to be reassured that US military doesn’t get closer to Chinese border in a “deal” between North Korea and America. Actually, a result of a deal could be a smaller American military presence in South Korea but a much larger American civil inspection presence inside North Korea. Given President Trump’s intense criticism of the Iran-America deal, there is no way he will accept soft toothless inspections of North Korea’s nuclear & missile capabilities.
President Trump’s position is clear, as his tweet from last evening says:
- Donald J. TrumpVerified account @realDonaldTrump The deal with North Korea is very much in the making and will be, if completed, a very good one for the World. Time and place to be determined.
Indeed, the world needs a peaceful and non-nuclear Korean peninsula. And if that could be accomplished, then other rogue nations like Iran and NonPakistan would realize that they are treading on quicksand. Remember, President Trump has already warned NonPakistan that they are at risk of becoming another North Korea.
Of course, none of this may happen. The Trump-Kim meeting may not take place or the meeting could fail. If that happens, then Kim knows what would be next. The meeting will convince Kim that what he feels today is absolutely true. That President Trump will do what he has been saying. And that conviction is behind his request for a meeting with President Trump & the best hope for a successful deal.
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