The New Yorker:
On February 21st, 1972, President Richard Nixon arrived in Beijing to meet with Chairman Mao Zedong, ending twenty-five years of hostility between the United States and China. The preparations had been painstaking: more than three years earlier, Henry Kissinger, the national-security adviser, began hinting to Beijing that Nixon might be the President to reopen relations. In 1971, Kissinger held secret meetings with Premier Zhou Enlai, logging dozens of hours of negotiations. That July, Nixon announced his plan, but it took another seven months of diplomatic preparation before he finally ventured to China for what he rightly called a “week that changed the world.”
By comparison, Donald Trump’s decision to meet with the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, is unfolding in an instant. On Thursday, upon learning that South Korea’s national-security adviser, Chung Eui-yong, was in the West Wing, meeting with various officials, Trump asked him into the Oval Office. When Chung told Trump that Kim wanted to meet with him, Trump gave an immediate yes and invited Chung to announce to the White House press corps the most audacious diplomatic gamble by an American President in decades. If the meeting takes place—and that is by no means guaranteed—it will be the first-ever encounter between a sitting American President and a leader of North Korea since the founding of that nation, in 1948.
Many diplomats were appalled by the announcement of a Presidential summit without the usual stages of lower-level talks in advance. But a senior Administration official told reporters that the White House is happy to depart from the usual rules of diplomacy with North Korea. “Literally, going back to 1992, the United States has engaged in direct talks at low levels with the North Koreans, and I think that history speaks for itself,” the official said.
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