Nixon Did It. Why Not Trump? Crib Notes for a Presidential Summit


Mr. Trump might find common ground with Mr. Kim in these areas:

1. A new relationship

Both men have expressed frustration at the lack of progress in previous negotiations and may be interested in a game-changing breakthrough that redefines the relationship between the two nations.

“If you just look at it as, ‘Give up your stuff,’ that framework is why we’ve been banging our head against the wall for so long,” said John Delury, a North Korea scholar at Yonsei University in Seoul. “If we say we need to fundamentally change the relationship, then you have a framework where there can be real progress.”

2. Reduce danger of confrontation and conflict

Mr. Trump threatened to unleash “fire and fury” on North Korea last year, and a North Korean official warned of a “nuclear-to-nuclear showdown” just a few weeks ago.

But a war would mean devastating casualties, including of American troops in South Korea, and American cities would also be at risk of suffering a nuclear strike because of the North’s recent advances. For Mr. Kim, a war would almost certainly result in the end of his rule and the destruction of his country.

3. Make our countries — and our leadership — great again

Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim are both looking for political victories that will help them at home.

“The imagery of Kim and Trump holding hands, embracing and declaring an end to the Korean War, is probably something they both individually want,” said Laura Rosenberger, a senior fellow and director of the Washington-based Alliance for Securing Democracy.

4. More independence from China (?)

North Korea once enjoyed two sponsors, China and the Soviet Union. But China has been its main economic benefactor since the Soviet collapse, accounting for more than 90 percent of foreign trade. In recent years, Beijing has also helped keep the North afloat by blocking or resisting tighter sanctions against it.


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