After months of heated rhetoric between United States President Donald Trump, and North Korea’s Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un in the fall of 2017, both leaders have agreed to a potential meeting to take place in May of 2018. Much speculation has been debated on whether or not this meeting will actually take place, what the two leaders will discuss, and the outcome of the meeting. To get a more clear idea of what this meeting means, I sat down with Drake University Assistant Professor of Political Science, Dr. Gregory Wolf.
Dr. Wolf received his Doctorate in political science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he specialized in American politics and quantitative methods. He also has a Masters Degree in political science from the University of Georgia, and received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Pittsburg. He has been at Drake University since the fall of 2017.
What does this meeting mean for the global political system?
China is an ally of North Korea, so our relationship with China could be affected; on the grand scale, all our nuclear war. With these two (President Trump and Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un) they are both so unpredictable. In terms of Russia, they have so much else going on the North Korea situation is not a top priority.
What will be the primary countries affected from this meeting? Why?
As I said China will be largely affected. South Korea as well, which goes back to the Korean War. Also, Japan as well, because they are a U.S. ally too. South Korea and China would most likely have a representative at the talks, but I am not sure Japan would.
I believe North and South Korea are having a meeting in April, which will set the stage before the proposed meeting with President Trump.
Since both sides will not get everything they want, does a compromise seem plausible? What would that look like?
I’m not sure what a compromise would look like, as both leaders are set in their ways. To me a compromise would be a winding down of North Korea’s nuclear program. I’m not sure how likely that is, although we have seen Iran move in that direction.
So, if we eased economic sanctions on North Korea and started small trading. Given President Trump’s response to the Iran sanctions, I don’t think he would be open to that.
What steps can each leader take to ensure the chances of a successful meeting between the two nations? (i.e. it doesn’t fall apart)
Preparation, which I believe President Trump has not been wanting to do. Meetings like this don’t happen this quick, nations usually prepare for a year beforehand. Usually nations will have diplomats meeting with one another before the final meeting, and that normal process isn’t going to carry itself out.
The most worrying aspect is the new NSA Chair, John Bolton, has said in the past that he’d like talks with North Korea to fail and take a harder line and more aggressive stance with North Korea.
Where will the meeting take place? Is there any significance to this?
It’s hard to say, but I’d assume some kind of neutral location. There is a lot of mystery on how the North Korean’s travel, as they don’t leave North Korea frequently. Kim Jong-un has recently taken his first trip to China, using an armored train that traveled into and out of China’s borders within a day. Talks could take place in China, though with our current relationship with China, that doesn’t seem to likely. A place like Switzerland may be more likely.
Why is this meeting happening in the wake of heated rhetoric between the two leaders?
The reason the two nations historically have not met is because North Korea was unwilling to roll back and deescalate its nuclear program. The Trump administration has not made those concessions a requirement, as previous administrations have. That opened the door to the meeting, despite all the heated rhetoric that previous presidents have been weak on North Korea, the Trump administration has taken a weaker stance in order to make this meeting happen. If the meeting works, great, but if it doesn’t we gave North Korea and Kim Jong-un an even bigger platform.
How do you envision the outcome of the meeting and the fallout afterwards?
Given the unpredictability of both leaders it is hard to say what will happen. The fallout of the meeting could be a literally fallout, or it could just be nothing.
Overall, is this a good idea for each leader? Each nation?
From a United States point of view it is good, if Trump can get them to slow down the nuclear program or get rid of it all together. It would be good for North Korea if they can get some ease on the sanctions placed on the country. It is a very poor country, where people have a low quality of life. Whether or not the two nations are thinking about it in those terms…I don’t know what they want out of this meeting.
Having said that, Kim Jong-un probably has a greater idea of what he wants to get out of this meeting than Trump does. For Trump, it seems like everything is about the “show” and the “ratings”, it’s how he thinks about these things. Whereas, North Korea’s more likely playing some sort of (political) game, at the very least they know what they’re trying to achieve. Kim Jong-un is calculated, and has a better idea of what outcome he wants.