The New Yorker:
In a breathtaking gambit that surprised his closest advisers, President Trump, almost impulsively, accepted an invitation on Thursday to meet the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un—by May—to discuss how to defuse the world’s most dangerous nuclear standoff. The invitation was relayed by a South Korean delegation that met with Kim earlier this week and then travelled to Washington. It will be the first-ever meeting between American and North Korean heads of state. The location is yet to be designated, but the odds are that it will be a South Korean or Chinese venue.
Unless the summit is just an extraordinary photo opportunity to symbolize the easing of tensions or a simple listening tour, the new U.S.-North Korean track is backward diplomatically. A summit of leaders is usually the reward rather than the starting point. Normally, months or even years of diplomatic legwork are required to work out terms to be formally approved by heads of state. The Clinton Administration spent years working on phases of a deal to curtail North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, which included a trip by Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to Pyongyang. A visit by President Clinton was supposed to be the final deal-maker.
As it is currently set up, President Trump has everything to lose if he comes away without tangible and extensive gains that meet his long-standing demand for North Korea to abandon the world’s deadliest weapon. Kim, who leads the world’s most isolated country, has everything to gain from the stature that comes from a summit with the world’s leading superpower.
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