Analysis & Opinions - The New York Times

Vague on Details, Trump Is Betting on ‘Special Bond’ With Kim to Deliver Deal

| June 12, 2018

On paper, there is nothing President Trump extracted from North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, in their summit meeting that Mr. Kim’s father and grandfather had not already given to past American presidents.

In fact, he got less, at least for now. But as Mr. Trump made clear in a lengthy but vaguely worded reconstruction of their five hours of talks, none of that really matters to him.

Instead, he is betting everything on the “terrific relationship” and “very special bond” that he said he developed with the 34-year-old dictator, and Mr. Trump’s seeming certainty that they now view the future elimination of North Korea’s arsenal of atomic weapons the same way. He swatted away suggestions that the phrase “complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula” means something different in Pyongyang than it does in Washington.

Mr. Trump may yet prove that this time is different. This entire venture in the steamy summer in Singapore, the beating capitalist heart of Southeast Asia, is based on his conclusion that past presidents got it backward.

So he flew halfway around the world to meet the leader of one of the world’s most repressive nations on the theory that if he could win over the country’s leader with a vision of future wealth, North Korea will determine that it no longer needs its nuclear weapons. Or its missiles, its stockpiles of VX and other nerve agents or its biological weapons.

It is a huge gamble, based on the very Trumpian assumption that the force of his personality, and the deal-making skills in which he has supreme confidence, will make all the difference. Skeptics doubt that anything basic has changed and that a regime that has survived chiefly on its ability to threaten Armageddon will be willing to give up everything.

Mr. Trump says he has no doubt that Mr. Kim has made a strategic decision to give it all up. After all, Mr. Kim took an admiring walking tour of the Singapore night life on Monday night, and Mr. Trump was not exactly subtle in suggesting that Pyongyang could soon take the same development path — if only Mr. Kim traded that future for his weapons.

“I think, honestly, I think he’s going to do these things,” Mr. Trump insisted. “I may be wrong. I mean, I may stand before you in six months and say, ‘Hey, I was wrong.’” He paused a moment, realizing how out of character that would be.

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For Academic Citation: Sanger, David.“Vague on Details, Trump Is Betting on ‘Special Bond’ With Kim to Deliver Deal.” The New York Times, June 12, 2018.

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