Korea: will there really be a lasting peace?

I haven’t kept up with the news much (believe me, it’s great to pick up a copy of Le Figaro and not see Trump’s name on the front page), but am aware that Kim Jong-un is now promising to destroy the DPRK’s nuclear test sites and cease ballistic missile testing, as well as to allow Western authorities and journalists to watch the underground site being destroyed. Kim Jong-un has also permitted the release of three American prisoners.

A while back I branded the upcoming peace talks as futile, saying that North Korea would never give up its program to build nuclear weapons. I hoped I was wrong, but I still don’t think I am.  If North Korea does that, and gets in return some form of increased intercourse with the South, then the DPRK loses the one promise it’s given its people: weapons that would stave off the incursion of South Korea and America into its worker’s paradise. And how could Kim Jong-un remain in power once his people discover what the outside world is really like? (They are, of course, beginning to find out, but can’t do more than watch videos so long as the present and horribly cruel regime is in place.)

It seems to me—and I’m no expert—that if Kim Jong-un gives up his nuclear weapons for real this time, and allows inspections, and in return gets more exchange of people and goods, then he’s going to lose his position. Remember, the history of the DPRK’s promises about nuclear non-proliferation is a history of duplicity.

So I’m not optimistic, but I’d love to be proved wrong, for always in my heart I carry a sadness for the world’s most oppressed people—the North Koreans. Millions have already died under the most horrible conditions, and I’d like to see some hope for the ones still alive.

What do you think? Here’s another nonscientific poll of reader opinion, but please vote:

Remember, in the unlikely event that things do improve for North Korea, we should be willing to give Trump credit for accomplishing at least one good thing as President.

108 Comments

  1. bonetired
    Posted May 13, 2018 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    Other: DPRK ostensibly agrees to ratchet back or even to abandon its nuclear programme but continues in secret. Why such cynicism? Because that is precisely what it agreed to in 1999 and 2005-9.

    • Randy Bessinger
      Posted May 13, 2018 at 11:55 am | Permalink

      +1

    • DrBrydon
      Posted May 13, 2018 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

      That’s the way the smart money bets, and that’s how I interpret the second choice.

      • John Frum
        Posted May 13, 2018 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

        Yes, I picked number 2 as it was closest to this scenario.
        Kim must be really hurting from sanctions now and needs to get them cut back.
        One of his big money earners is his people being sent to other countries as slave labour and I read that this has recently been sanctioned.

    • Adam M.
      Posted May 13, 2018 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

      Yep, that’s what I think. Trump’s being played. Given Kim Jong-un’s enthusiasm for nukes and the regime’s aggressive rhetoric, why would they suddenly do such an about-face?

      There’s also news about how their nuclear test site is falling apart. I’m guessing the facility is nearly useless at this point and its destruction is a ploy. They lose nothing while gaining sanctions relief and whatnot…

    • Steve Pollard
      Posted May 13, 2018 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

      I agree. And Kim will not abandon his long-term ambition, which is to reunite Korea on his terms.

      • Posted May 13, 2018 at 11:54 pm | Permalink

        Not really. If South Korea were to surrender today, would Kim accept? Highly doubtful. For NK to try and absorb a country the size of SK would cause NK to implode.

        No-one seriously believes this sort of thing anymore.

    • Posted May 14, 2018 at 9:45 am | Permalink

      There is the possibility that they may have to scale back their nuclear experiments anyway for other reasons (lack of materials, testing space, technology) but want to claim diplomatic credit for doing so “voluntarily.” This would gain them concessions and PR credit for no real cost.

  2. Posted May 13, 2018 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    Other: North and South Korea will unite as one nation with peace and democracy. Jong-un will run for president of a united Korea and win by a landslide. Then all Koreans will join hands and sing Arirang as they march forth in peace and prosperity under their new glorious leader.

    Just kidding.

  3. nay
    Posted May 13, 2018 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    After much hard bargaining, they will agree to abandon their nuclear program – no skin off their noses since they’ve accomplished everything they needed: they now know how to do it, they have rockets that work (they won’t abandon the rockets for “defense”) and they probably have a stockpile of fissionable material someplace the inspectors won’t be shown. (The hard bargaining will be so Trump can show his tough negotiating skills.)

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted May 13, 2018 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

      Why in the world would Jong-un do so now that Trump has shown the United States can’t be trusted to abide by such agreements by blowing up the deal with Iran?

      If you give up your nukes, you’re going down, is the lesson from Muammar Gaddafi and Saddam Hussein. And if you cut a deal with the US, it won’t live up to it, is the lesson from Iran.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted May 13, 2018 at 8:07 pm | Permalink

        Most thoroughly agreed.

        This is why I wouldn’t give Trump any credit at all. The whole thing is being masterminded by Kim Jong Un, IMO, and any barely sentient halfwit of a President (i.e. almost anybody) could have done at least as well as Trump.

        And on the big minus side, he’s doing his best to wreck the deal with Iran, just because Obama brokered it – what an asshole! I just hope all the other signatories to the Iran deal stay with it, and encourage Iran to do the same. If the USA imposes sanctions the rest of the world can take up the slack.

        cr

      • Posted May 13, 2018 at 11:56 pm | Permalink

        Why? Because NK has no choice. Why does it have no choice? Because it is pivoting away from China.

  4. Michael Fisher
    Posted May 13, 2018 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    North Korea isn’t giving up its nuclear weapons, it’s blowing up the tunnels leading to one underground site. A site which is perhaps unusable & how does one know all the tunnels tunnels have been blown?

    I remember that the last announcement was inviting journalists to the great blow up party, but there was no mention of weapons inspectors. I would think that inspectors would want a few months [or years?] of checking above & below ground – using robots where necessary – rather than this ‘event’. I have no knowledge of inspection procedures, but I suppose a thorough inspection would require air & soil samples for miles around & tests of all possible water flows. Just finding the water flows, which may not surface for many miles is probably a life’s work with tracer chemicals. Blowing the tunnels impedes that work surely…

    • Hempenstein
      Posted May 13, 2018 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

      Yep, that’s my understanding too – they’ve trashed their test site to the point that it can no longer be used, so sure, let’s blow it up.

    • Posted May 13, 2018 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

      All I’ve read is that NK is proposing to cease its testing programs. No mention of it destroying its arsenal of recently developed nukes.

      Jung-un is doing exactly as pleases. Trump and the US are being played.

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted May 13, 2018 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

        Exactly. N Korea will be keeping her toys.

  5. mikeyc
    Posted May 13, 2018 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    I wonder if any of youse guys think that the recent Winter Olympic games has much to do with the apparent thaw in North-South relations?

    There was a lot of positive media coverage of the Games (and it was, from a sporting perspective, very good competition) and much interest beyond the Olympics itself. There were official and non-official exchanges between governments during competition and (IIANM) the North allowed their media to cover it.

    I dunno, but it may be that the Games made it easier to take the first steps.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted May 13, 2018 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

      You are right. The one who deserves the kudos in all this is South Korean president Moon. The thaw has absolutely nothing to do with Trump, and would have happened whoever was US president once North Korea had a nuclear weapon capable of reaching the continental US, preferably as far as the east coast.

      I’d say Kim was always aiming to get to that stage in time for the winter Olympics in South Korea. He wants limited contact with the rest of the world for economic reasons, but feels the need to have nukes to be in a position to do that. Quite frankly, I can’t blame him, though I deplore that he has them.

      One of the things president Moon ran on in the elections was closer/better relations with the North. Kim has cut back on ties with the South big time since he ramped up his nuke programme.

      Many people have close family in North Korea, including siblings, parents, and grandparents, that they lost contact with because of the war. They often don’t even know if they’re alive. The previous DPRK leaders allowed some visitation, but the current Kim cut that off.

      • Christopher
        Posted May 13, 2018 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

        It might have something to do with tRump…as useful idiot and kiss-ass of Putin. Putin has a hand in this somehow. And/or Xi Jinping as he tightens his fingers around the throat of China. North Korea relies on its two bigger brothers and I have a hard time believing Kim will do too much of anything without their approval and consultation.

        • Christopher
          Posted May 13, 2018 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

          And I just saw a news report on Politico that tRump is urging the commerce dept. to assist XTE, a Chinese telecom company who violated US sanctions. One can only wonder what China and Russ has over tRump, kinky videos, mob debts, business access, best hookers in both countries? All of the above? One thing is certain. This North Korean “peace in our time” doesn’t pass the smell test, cynic or not, it just doesn’t make sense somehow.

          • Michael Fisher
            Posted May 13, 2018 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

            XTE could almost be the name of an 80s rave drug 🙂 ZTE OTOH spent over $2,300,000,000 last year on imports from 200 US companies – that’s why Trump is walking it back.

            • Christopher
              Posted May 13, 2018 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

              Damn thumbs! Yes, not XTE or XTC…😬

              ZTE, and the BBC is reporting that Pompeo is talking about US companies rebuilding the infrastructure in North Korea. Yes, the private sector will build North Korea’s electrical grid, not, he pointed out, the US taxpayers, but private sector capitalists! Another piece of the puzzle falls into place. Perhaps tRump’s buddies who tried the get the Puerto Rico contracts without the requisite experience will instead get North Korea! Let us just imagine for one second what the Republicans would have said or done if Obama had dared even float the idea of Americans doing business with North Korea…! UnF@ckingBelievable.

              • Michael Fisher
                Posted May 13, 2018 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

                I think you’re right about the Italian-American Pompeo – one of his first businesses after the army [a few years between to acquire mountains of cash] was partly funded by the Koch Bros & when Pompeo somehow, amazingly became head of the CIA he put one of his old business buddies in as COO – somewhat blatant. The business of politics, war & the business of business are inseparable in the USA.

                Pompeo has no limits when it comes to putting a thumb on the scales & I suppose Trump has found a brother in that.

                Pompeo has visited NK twice now & it is from him that we’ve heard that Kim will discuss terms for “denuclearization”, but I’m thinking all sides are being deliberately vague on what “denuclearization” entails. China isn’t going to let American business romp in & build power plants & an electrical grid, but maybe Kim wants the Trumpsters to think this is all real.

                When Kim gets fed for free at the best restaurant in town & chauffeured back home, Pompeo will only get a peck on the cheek at the doorstep & a demure “nighty night, big boy”.

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted May 13, 2018 at 8:32 pm | Permalink

            There’s never been another US president — hell, rarely has there been another human being — as vulnerable to blackmail as Donald Trump. Just the stuff that comes out on a near daily basis, the stuff that he mendaciously denies and tries to cover up (like his affairs with Stormy Daniels and the Playboy playmate) would be enough for him to be compromised by a hostile state actor. Who knows what else is out there?

            I never though I’d ever say this, but this nation has a president in whom we can no confidence of his having the undivided interests of the United States at heart.

        • Heather Hastie
          Posted May 13, 2018 at 11:44 pm | Permalink

          He’ll check with them before making any major moves imo too.

      • Posted May 14, 2018 at 12:05 am | Permalink

        I think this is right. NK saw the Olympics as its moment to pivot towards SK and US:
        1) the Olympics is set in stone (i.e. no-one is going to cancel the Olympics) so NK can set their timetable accordingly.
        2) it allows NK to maximize the international news coverage.
        3) explains the crazy number of missile tests they were doing just prior to the Olympics.

      • Posted May 14, 2018 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

        The one who deserves the kudos in all this is South Korean president Moon.

        Finally, someone gets it.

        As to what will happen in these talks, both North and South Korea will grant some minor concessions to each other and the two leaders will enjoy PR victories with their people. More importantly, the peninsula will be a little further from descending into hot war.

        • Heather Hastie
          Posted May 14, 2018 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

          Thanks for your kind words, and I agree with you about what will happen.

  6. jhs
    Posted May 13, 2018 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    Kim Jong-Un wants to go down in history as the Deng Xiaoping of Korea. Trump wants to take credit, but IMO, Xi Jinping plays the most important role in the outcome.

    • Posted May 13, 2018 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

      Yes. It’s not completely unimportant that in many respects for Kim Jong-un “this time” is the first time.

      He’s a 34-year old kid, who only consolidated his power a few years ago.

    • Posted May 14, 2018 at 12:12 am | Permalink

      Nonsense.
      1) a Chinese system will destroy NK, and NK knows it.
      2) the Chinese have treated NK as an embarrassing stepchild, largely ignored. And NK resents it. This pivot towards the US has caught China by surprise.
      3) It’s not even clear to me anymore that NK wants USFK out of SK. In fact, it seems likely that NK wants USFK around, to counter China. We may be getting to a point where NK may become a client state of the US – a complete game changer.

      • jhs
        Posted May 14, 2018 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

        Sorry, I meant to say that Kim Jong-Un wants to go down in history as the Deng Xiaoping of NorthKorea.

        Deng did open his country to foreign investment and trade.

        How do you know a Chinese system will destroy NK? What is the Chinese system you had in mind? The dictatorship? The economic system? NK follows a form of dictatorship already.

  7. Ken Kukec
    Posted May 13, 2018 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    … some form of increased intercourse with the South …

    Thanks a lot. Now I’ve got the image of Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in making the beast with two backs seared into my imagination. 🙂

    • Steve Pollard
      Posted May 13, 2018 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

      [Not to mention the “pubic-relations victory” in bullet 3…]

  8. FB
    Posted May 13, 2018 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    One possibility is that Kim Jong-un believes that science and technology will soon solve his two main problems: energy and food. If that is the case he just needs time. Maybe we’ll see more North Koreas when we solve those problems.

    • Posted May 14, 2018 at 12:15 am | Permalink

      No, engagement with South Korea will solve those problems. The “H Railway plan” of economic revitalization that Moon gave KJU during their summit addresses precisely those issues.

  9. BJ
    Posted May 13, 2018 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

    I again feel you’re being too reductive and shortsighted in your analysis of this situation. It is entirely possible you’re right, but there are many other possibilities.

    In my opinion, the most likely possibility (aside from Kim/NK simply being dishonest in this process) is the following: Kim sees denuclearization as the best chance at his and NK’s (at least, as it exists now) survival. If this is the case, it is true that these talks are being conducted in earnest.

    Another, less likely but entirely possible scenario: Kim knows that the modern world will continue to seep into the consciousness of his population. Whether it is because he thinks he will not be able to hold his position in the face of continued consciousness of the outside world or continued oppression of his people, or whether it’s because his plan all along was to slowly open up the country under his rule, it is completely feasible that he has wanted to start this process from the start of his rule, and even before he took over.

    Let’s assume for a moment that Kim wants to be the North Korean leader who eventually shepherds his country into the modern era. The question would be: why has he only shown signs of being yet another Kim family despot? The answer to this is simple: there is no way he could survive the transition to power without convincing those around him that he is another ruthless member of the Kim family. He never could have taken power while openly advocating ushering his country into the modern world. If he wishes to change NK, he must do it exactly as he (ostensibly, in my alternative theory) has so far. Hell, it’s possible that his father passed power to him because he had trained and/or trusted Jong-Un to be the one who would take on this enormous task, but be strong enough to first maintain his hold on power in the face of intergovernmental challenges.

    Finally, if this is all just a ploy, who cares? There is not nearly as much to lose as there is to gain by treating these talks seriously. There is very little reason not to pursue this avenue. The potential benefits of these negotiations succeeding far outweigh the costs of them failing, and that is what’s most important.

    • BJ
      Posted May 13, 2018 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

      To be clear, I’m not suggesting it’s you, Jerry, who has been advocating the idea of not engaging in these attempts at negotiation in the first place. That part of my post was directed at others I’ve seen advocating such a position and claiming that engaging in this process is somehow detrimental.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted May 13, 2018 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

      I dunno, BJ, but kudos for cornering the bull market on giddy optimism. 🙂

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted May 13, 2018 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

        I’m with you Ken. For example, in BJ’s second scenario, parts of which are possible I admit, it relies on Kim pretending to be a despot for the last seven years. That he was murdering his own uncle and brother, sending tens of thousands to re-education camps, allowing torture, and more just to keep up the pretence that he wasn’t really a good guy. For me, that doesn’t work.

        I have a similar problem with the first scenario. Why spend years destroying your country’s economy to nuclearize just to suddenly turn on a dime and de-nuclearize?

        • Christopher
          Posted May 13, 2018 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

          He didn’t murder anyone. He sent them to live on a farm with all those sad children’s dogs and cats! Right?

      • BJ
        Posted May 13, 2018 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

        It’s not optimism. I’m not optimistic that any of this will be successful. My contention is that there are several possibilities that allow for the possibility of success and, considering that the benefits of success far outweigh the negative consequences of failure, it’s foolhardy not to pursue denuclearization.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted May 13, 2018 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

          Hey, I’m in favor of pursuing negotiations for a potential agreement. But it’s foolhardy to think there’re no risks.

          Reminds me of Trump’s line during the campaign: “What have you got to lose?!”

          I dunno, Mister President, where do we start — Dignity? Respect for the rule of Law? The integrity of our institutions?

          • BJ
            Posted May 14, 2018 at 9:55 am | Permalink

            I didn’t say there are no risks. I said the benefits far outweigh the risks. If you had merely misunderstood my words and left it at that, I’d be fine, but putting words in my mouth and then comparing them to Trump’s is not cool! 😛

            That last line was partially joking. It wouldn’t sound as mean in person.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted May 13, 2018 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

      @BJ These aren’t “talks” because there’s no pre-agreed agenda & there’s no agreement on what to “denuclearize” means.

      As an example, DPRK has considered in the past the process of denuclearization & for them it’s a two-way street. They see South Korea as a potently armed nuclear power via their military alliance with the US & they see THAT alliance as a nuclear threat to them, even though there’s been no US nuclear weapons in South Korea since 1992 [so we are told].

      Since DPKR can’t expect the USA to denuclearize, we know they’ll want the removal of all American forces from South Korea.

      I think these “talks” can cause great harm [as others here have also said], because Trump is clueless on the niceties, because Trump is clueless on the big picture today [& historically] – he is a toddler with a loaded gun & a tendency to throw tantrum[p]s.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted May 13, 2018 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

        Recall that, during his campaign, Trump came out in favor of Japan and South Korea obtaining nukes of their own, since (according to him) the US was sick & tired of footing the bill for their defense.

      • BJ
        Posted May 13, 2018 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

        So what changes if talks fail? What are we risking? Trump can continue firing salvos and insults regardless of whether or not any of this happens. I understand all the reasons for why this entire idea is unlikely to succeed, but I fail to understand what enormous risks there are in failure.

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted May 13, 2018 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

          @BJ The “talks” are not a neutral or good effect as you portray!

          OK. You asked for an example of a negative outcome. A what if… Here’s an outlier for you & I can think of six other Trumpian Bad Deals in terms of easing of the current sanctions: He orders US forces from the Korean peninsula in return for not much concrete from DPRK & the “not much” turns out to be nothing. Trump Toddler values short term personal gratification [gold baubles] over a coherent workable policy.

          Nobody actually believes DPRK will give up the WMD [he has nerve & chemical agents & maybe biological]. Nobody believes he will permit hundreds of inspectors & thousands of support staff into the country to audit [it will take years] what they have lying about in cave systems here & there. The audit is an absolutely essential precursor to giving away anything.

          It’s all an absurd joke with DPRK playing the Trumpster ego.

          • BJ
            Posted May 14, 2018 at 9:58 am | Permalink

            Ordering US troops out of SK (which is even more unlikely to happen than denuclearization, IMO) will not make much of a difference strategically, at least in terms of effect on NK. The real threat the US poses to NK is from bombs (and, unlike bombs, other methods of destruction to be used solely against infrastructure).

            Regardless, the US will almost certainly never pull its troops from the region because those troops aren’t just about SK.

            • Michael Fisher
              Posted May 14, 2018 at 10:01 am | Permalink

              Exactly! 🙂

  10. Ken Kukec
    Posted May 13, 2018 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

    My fear, which I think is far from unrealistic, is that Trump’s summit with Jong-un will boomerang around and drive us closer to war with the DPRK (although Trump might just sign any agreement, however disadvantageous, just so he can claim a “win,” and go pick up his Alfred Nobel medallion from the committee in Oslo).

    If the summit comes apart at the seems, Trump (who just months ago could barely be heard above the sound of his rattling saber) may feel himself compelled to military action to avoid looking “weak.” Let us not forget that the people who have his ear on this are National Security Advisor John Bolton, the nation’s preeminent War Hawk (who, shortly before assuming office, published an article in the WSJ urging a preemptive first strike against NoKo) and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who has Christian eschatological fantasies of his own about an apocalyptic end-times war.

    I hope against hope I’m wrong, but I voted “Other.”

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted May 13, 2018 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

      … comes apart at the “seams” — this is why I’m such a homophone-phobe.

  11. nicky
    Posted May 13, 2018 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

    The DPRK has it’s nukes, it has its ICBM’s.
    The nuclear testing site they offer to blow up has been destroyed anyway by their last tests -if I understood correctly.
    I don’t think they are going to de-nuclearisec (they would be crazy to do so). They want easing of sanctions. The best that can be done (IMMO) is a treaty that kind of guarantees that they will not invade South Korea in a repeat of the early fifties, and some opening to outside influence. Sooner or later the slaves will rise, and we hope it will not be too violent an uprising. “Corruption” by modern technology and living standards may possibly work best.

  12. Harrison
    Posted May 13, 2018 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

    In the wake of the total dissolution of the Iran deal why woud anyone be optimistic about further international arrangements with this administration?

    • KD33
      Posted May 13, 2018 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

      Simply because to be pessimistic would assume Trump is consistent. There’s no telling what he might think or do tomorrow or next week, which gives a tiny glimmer of hope he might do something good, even if it’s by fiat or accident.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted May 13, 2018 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

        As Trump’s tergiversations on DACA and gun control demonstrate, decisions in Trumpworld often depend upon who was last to whisper in his ear. And, right now, the people growling in Trump’s ear are bellicose hawks regarding military action against North Korea.

        • Heather Hastie
          Posted May 13, 2018 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

          +1.

    • Posted May 13, 2018 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

      Exactly. The USA can no longer be trusted to adhere to the agreements it makes with other countries.

      • Craw
        Posted May 13, 2018 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

        It didn’t make that deal. The treaty was never ratified. The way under the constitution the country makes binding agreements with other countries is ratified treaties.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted May 13, 2018 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

          Well, by that token, the US was never at war with North Korea, since congress never declared war pursuant to Article 1, Section 8, Clause 11 (the only constitutional method for doing so), so I guess it’s folly to pursue a permanent peace agreement to replace the 1953 Armistice (and someone should tell all those widows and mothers who lost their husbands and sons from the Pusan Perimeter up to the Chosin Reservoir).

          There are numerous bi- and multi-lateral international agreements the US is party to in addition to formal treaties (though I certainly agree it would be best if congress got off its dead ass and back to the intended way of conducting business).

        • Posted May 17, 2018 at 6:41 am | Permalink

          That’s somewhat pedantic. The deal was agreed. Ratification should have been a formality but the USA reneged on a promise. The USA has proved itself a bad actor and now nobody will trust it.

    • BJ
      Posted May 13, 2018 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

      It’s possible that Trump has made a brilliant maneuver entirely by accident: through his belligerence over the past year and willful intolerance of Obama-made deals, he has convinced Kim that he just might be crazy enough to order a military campaign against NK.

      If the above is true and actually leads to a peaceful or even merely denuclearized NK, it would be the stuff of satirical political fiction. It would be like Dr. Strangelove in reverse.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted May 13, 2018 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

        Sure, even a blind pig finds a truffle once in a while. But the smart money ain’t countin’ on Fonduta Con Tartufi for dinner tonight.

        • John Frum
          Posted May 13, 2018 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

          Wouldn’t a blind pig be MORE likely to find truffles?

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted May 13, 2018 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

            Yeah, I suppose that idiom about pigs and truffles is what Fowler would call a “sturdy indefensible.”

    • Steve Gerrard
      Posted May 13, 2018 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

      Because for Trump, a deal is judged by who made it, not its terms. The Iran deal was Obama, therefore it was bad. The NK deal will be Trump, therefore it is good.

  13. Posted May 13, 2018 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

    The DPRK will unconditionally agree to drop its nuclear weapons program. Trump will take all the credit and be awarded the Nobel prize. Riding on the back of the wave of popularity this causes, Trump will win in 2020, revoke the twenty second amendment in 2021 (with overwhelming popular support), win a third term in 2024 and be smothered in his sleep by Melania whilst campaigning for his fourth term.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted May 13, 2018 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

      You had me goin’ right up until the bit about Melania; no way Trump won’t be with Wife #4 or 5 by then.

      • Posted May 13, 2018 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

        🙂

      • Matty
        Posted May 15, 2018 at 11:49 am | Permalink

        By then he might have made it legal to marry one’s daughter.

  14. Paul S
    Posted May 13, 2018 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

    Kim Jong-un benevolent despot, I won’t hold my breath.

  15. Heather Hastie
    Posted May 13, 2018 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

    Other.

    They will not give up their nukes because of the lesson of Qadaffi, Ukraine etc., and also because it’s their only bargaining chip.

    They will close the testing site up north near the Chinese border. Why? They have to do that anyway. The last test caused a 6.4 earthquake, tunnels collapsed, and there are unconfirmed reports that up to 200 personnel were killed in the collapse. The DPRK’s programme may not be able to restart because of that anyway. Also, there may be radiation leaking into the groundwater there following the earthquake, including into China. China is not happy.

    They will not get rid of the nukes they have. The topography of the country means there are plenty of places they can be hidden away from IAEA inspections, if they agree to those. They’ll probably hide them in the mountains north of the border with South Korea, where they can be directed south (South Korea or even Guam) or east (to Japan or even Hawaii/continental US).

    Kim Jong-un will run rings around Trump at the talks and I am very worried about what Trump will agree to before anyone can stop him.

    There will be an easing of sanctions, and North Korea will build up their economy. However, their people will be just as restricted as before. There will be exchange programmes that are very carefully controlled.

    A peace treaty for the Korean War will be signed.

    When North Korea has the money, they will secretly restart their nuclear testing programme.

    • Posted May 13, 2018 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

      Yes. Kim is dangling a Nobel Prize in front of Trump’s nose.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted May 13, 2018 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

        Trump nearly pees himself with giddiness whenever anyone mentions the Nobel, but what are the odds he could name three previous winners from all categories — or that he’s ever read a book by a single literature laureate or could name a physicist besides, maybe, Einstein?

    • Steve Gerrard
      Posted May 13, 2018 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

      Nukes are only useful if others know you have them. Their only value is threat.

      I think Kim Jong-un feels safe enough without an active program. Putin will help if push comes to shove. After the latest developments, the US is not going to attack anyway.

      Meanwhile he would dearly like to be the leader of a functional country instead of a gulag. I think it’s pretty easy for him to see which way to go.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted May 13, 2018 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

        Putin (and Xi Jinping in China) will do what it takes to keep North Korea as a client state separate from the South, but I see nothing to suggest there’s any love lost by either on Kim Jong-un personally. Indeed, I rather think they’d prefer to have someone there more malleable — and Lil’ Kim knows it.

    • BJ
      Posted May 14, 2018 at 10:00 am | Permalink

      The nukes are far from their only bargaining chip. Even without nukes, the ordnance stationed across the border with SK alone would decimate Seoul in minutes. Without nukes, it’s still the case that, should anyone start a war with NK, SK loses millions of people and much of their economy.

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted May 14, 2018 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

        You’re right of course. But the reality is that the US pays a lot more attention when they’re the ones threatened.

        • BJ
          Posted May 15, 2018 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

          Yes, but a threat to SK is a threat to the US. SK is a critical strategic ally, considering its neighbors (one in particular). A loss of SK as a stalwart ally would be devastating to US interests in the region.

          • Heather Hastie
            Posted May 15, 2018 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

            The US is maintains permanent military bases in South Korea and Japan, and there is a defence treaty. They would retaliate immediately if South Korea attacked. North Korea knows this, and knows they would be destroyed. Know, they can retaliate by nuking the US, which they couldn’t do before.

  16. Craw
    Posted May 13, 2018 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

    No opinion. On what data do I base an opinion? I am not inclined to believe either Kim or Trump, but the prisoners were released.

  17. W.Benson
    Posted May 13, 2018 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

    The two most likely outcomes are 2+4 (a ratchet back with increasing trade with the south) or the 3rd choice by itself. This is because the Trump administration has already announced its intention of keeping US troops in South Korea, which I believe is inconsistent with the first option. Time will tell.

  18. Filippo
    Posted May 13, 2018 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

    I can’t believe that Kim (as much as possible trying to ensure that he will not be invaded by the U.S.) will give up his nuclear capability which, IICR, is what Trump wants. (Of course the U.S. considers it not an option to give up its own nuclear arsenal.) Bolton makes noises about attacking NK. He should be strapped to the first bomb dropped, a la Slim “Yee-Haw!” Pickens in “Dr. Strangelove,” must that come to pass.

    What kind of psychological mindset executes someone – a relative – with an anti-aircraft gun? I think that says not a little.

    I read in the NY Times noises already being made about Trump getting the Nobel peace prize. Quite premature, IMHO. Why shouldn’t Kim share it with him?

    There is a lot of wishful thinking going on.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted May 13, 2018 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

      If anyone wanted to utterly, totally discredit the Nobel Peace Prize that would do it. Might as well award it posthumously to Osama Bin Laden. (OK, I know that’s fantasy, they don’t do posthumous awards). Or award the prize in Physics to my cat.

      A Nobel is supposed to recognize some significant achievement. Like, something more than an average mediocre drone could achieve. Trump is doing his best to piss all over the deal with Iran, solely because Obama brokered it – what an utter asshole. As for North Korea, is there anything Trump has done that a half-competent President couldn’t have done better?

      I vote they give the Peace Prize to the International Olympic Committee, for holding the Winter Games where they did. 🙂

      cr

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted May 13, 2018 at 8:33 pm | Permalink

        Hey, that was directed at the notion of giving it to Drumpf, not specifically at the notion that Kim should share it. Kim is playing poker with the worst hand in the pack, and not doing too badly, at that.

        cr

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted May 13, 2018 at 8:39 pm | Permalink

        “Or award the prize in Physics to my cat.”

        How’s he feelin’ since he got outta Schrodinger’s box?

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted May 13, 2018 at 8:48 pm | Permalink

          🙂

          Hypothetical. (I don’t actually have a cat).

          cr

  19. Dionigi
    Posted May 13, 2018 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

    I’m betting that he takes the China option. Which is to hang on to his form of government but to allow the people to progress to capitalism. This will allow access to western consumer goods and allow the standard of living to rise for the masses. Watch out for the rise in imports from NK just like China.

  20. Posted May 13, 2018 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

    I think China extended a nuclear umbrella to Jong-un during his last two visits in exchange for his making nice to South Korea. This way China undermines the US with its current certifiably crazy president. Trump is playing poker with folks way smarter than he is.

    • Posted May 14, 2018 at 12:39 am | Permalink

      It truly is amazing what people believe about NK.
      Are you suggesting that NK was NOT under the Chinese nuclear umbrella prior to KJU’s visit? What in God’s name would make you believe that?

      • Posted May 14, 2018 at 9:31 am | Permalink

        Because China promising a nuclear attack on the US if the DPRK is attacked is one humungous commitment given that the US would retaliate. Such things are not offered lightly. The DPRK is not vital to China’s existence.

        • Posted May 14, 2018 at 10:08 am | Permalink

          So, what’s changed the calculus now? Why is it extending its nuclear umbrella now? To “undermine the US with its current crazy president”?

          This sort of analysis is just plain nuts.

          • Posted May 14, 2018 at 10:32 am | Permalink

            I think it is because the DPRK has been successful in developing its own ability to make a nuclear strike against the US. China has come to view that, coupled with erratic leadership in the DPRK and the US, as a bigger risk than extending a nuclear umbrella. The upside is that this means it is in China’s interest to ascertain that the DPRK does indeed dismantle its nuclear program.

            If you want any more discussion on this, read da Roolz and can the insults.

            • Posted May 14, 2018 at 11:47 am | Permalink

              The argument that China will extend its nuclear umbrella to North Korea because North Korea now has nuclear weapons, is nuts.

              That’s not an insult.
              That’s just nuts.

  21. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted May 13, 2018 at 8:45 pm | Permalink

    “Remember, in the unlikely event that things do improve for North Korea, we should be willing to give Trump credit for accomplishing at least one good thing as President.”

    With respect, why? Seems to me Kim is making the running. The only credit I’d give Trump is failing to cause utter disaster, so far. Any doofus could have done as well. Most could have done better.

    On the other hand he’s trying to piss all over the Iran deal, just because Obama brokered it. What an immature moron. He shouldn’t be left in charge of a hamburger joint.

    cr

  22. Posted May 13, 2018 at 8:51 pm | Permalink

    Can you imagine if a Democratic president were falling for the sucker play like Trump? The Republicans in Congress would be apoplectic.

  23. Posted May 14, 2018 at 12:25 am | Permalink

    Just a couple of comments regarding Jerry’s post:

    1) the idea that information cannot get in and out of NK is simply not true. That idea is about 15 years out of date. People in SK joke that NK know more about SK than SK knows about the North.
    2) You can quibble about who reneged on the Agreed Framework. But there’s very little doubt that it was the neocons in the Bush admin (including Bolton) who pulled out in 2007. At least that’s what people in SK believe – and with good evidence. BTW, NK was absolutely furious when they did this, because they thought they had a deal.

    • Posted May 14, 2018 at 12:36 am | Permalink

      Regarding (1) – the South Korean comedian and TV personality Yoo Jae Suk (Infinite Challenge, Running Man) is apparently a big favorite among North Koreans, as is Baek Z Young (the singer). Apparently, North Koreans prefer the traditional gayo-style singers as opposed to kpop because the latter uses too many English words which N Koreans don’t understand.

      There is no information embargo. And the elites in Pyongyang apparently have unfettered access to the internet.

  24. Posted May 14, 2018 at 7:16 am | Permalink

    Dear Dr. Coyne – there is an obvious answer to your question “how could Kim Jong-un remain in power once his people discover what the outside world is really like?” That is precisely the highly successful model that China and Vietnam have pioneered, in which a communist elite presides over a dynamic mixed economy, comprising state-owned enterprises, domestic capitalist firms and foreign multinationals.

    That model is all the more attractive for the North Korean elites because most of the foreign multinational investment would be from South Korea, that is people of the same nationality and culture, facilitating a long term integration of the NK elite into the South Korean capitalist elite,in a politically unified Korea.

    Korean unification is the long term golden apple that both the North and the South are playing for here. And that is very much in the long term US strategic interest, because both the US and Korea face the same long term strategic threat: China. I discuss these points more fully here: https://naimisha_forest.silvrback.com/towards-the-korean-century

  25. Dave137
    Posted May 14, 2018 at 8:24 am | Permalink

    The Steak-Salesman whined and threatened war while South Korea and China did the work to forge the potential for peace.

    If any of this works out for the world, a Peace Prize should go to the latter two, not the former (though China owns North Korea, making all this mere theater).

    The only deal likely to work (nevermind whether it would be agreed upon) is that North Korea hands off its weapons and stockpile to China, that China brings North Korea under its own nuclear umbrella, that the US and South Korea cease military exercises while the US also draws down its military presence on the peninsula, that sanctions are lifted and trade boosted, and the respective public rhetoric is toned down as diplomats engage.

    What’s more likely, though, is that some of this gets proposed in talks, and then the Draft-Dodging, Non-Tax-Paying, Country-Club-Owning King of Debt says screw it and everything reverts to as it was, with new missile tests coming.

  26. Posted May 14, 2018 at 8:53 am | Permalink

    “Remember, in the unlikely event that things do improve for North Korea, we should be willing to give Trump credit for accomplishing at least one good thing as President.”

    I’m betting North Korea will do everything they can to have free trade with the rest of the world. If I’m right this will be a fantastic accomplishment for Trump, perhaps good enough to win the 2020 election.

    I also noticed anyone who wants a job in America can get a job. The economy has never been better and Trump’s tax reform bill made it possible.

    I’m not voting for Trump but the Democrats have a problem. If they nominate a liberal extremist Trump will win.

    • Dave137
      Posted May 14, 2018 at 9:37 am | Permalink

      “I’m betting North Korea will do everything they can to have free trade with the rest of the world. If I’m right this will be a fantastic accomplishment for Trump, perhaps good enough to win the 2020 election.”

      Kim is bored, now that his nukes and missiles are mostly stable; and of course his people are still starving.

      “Seeking” peace is just something new to do, considering his constant eating, picture-taking, and tours of sad factories are sure to become stale.

      What did Trump do, exactly? He threatened nuclear war and then complimented the dear leader for releasing three people who essentially were kidnapped. South Korea and China did the actual work to get us this far.

      “I also noticed anyone who wants a job in America can get a job.”

      “Don’t believe those phony numbers,” Trump said when Obama was president. Trump also said the rate was actually 30%, 40% even. So that means we’re now at 29%. Or was he lying? I wonder.

      Obama inherited nearly 10% unemployment and got it down to under 5%. Trump is just following the trend.

      “The economy has never been better…”

      It’s better, but bubbling into the next bubble. When corporations are happy, stock-prices go up. Wow. I’m sure Trump himself hasn’t profited at all from his own decisions.

      “And Trump’s tax reform bill made it possible.”

      Laughable. Most jobs and corporate decisions were decided prior to Trump coming into office. Trump likes to take credit, which I know is surprising.

      “I’m not voting for Trump but the Democrats have a problem.”

      Democrats always have a problem: themselves. What is most concerning is the impact on the judiciary. Religious nuts who think their bible goes beyond the Constitution will now permit terrible legislation to stand.

      “If they nominate a liberal extremist Trump will win.”

      My guess is that Trump loses the popular-vote by a greater margin than 2016, yet manages to swing the EC. Potentially we have another seven years of pathetic idiocy, the breaking down of the barriers between church and state, and flourishing corruption.

    • darrelle
      Posted May 14, 2018 at 9:45 am | Permalink

      The current state of the US economy has little to nothing to do with the Trump administration. Trump’s tax reform bill certainly has nothing to do with it. The economy has been rising slowly but steadily for years and unemployment has been steadily falling for years. There has not been enough time for Trump’s tax reform bill to have any effect on these things.

      But if you want to get an idea of what the effects will be simply look back in history to the times when other Republican administrations enacted similar tax reforms. Results ranged from bad to disastrous every single time. Why on Earth should anyone suppose results this time around will be any different?

      Have you actually read through any significant part of Trump’s tax reform bill? It’s so blatantly a raid on the public coffers it really is ridiculous. Like slap-stick comedy bad guy ridiculous. It’s basically a list of every nook and cranny the Republican party authors of the bill could find some money to steal. Actual reform of the Federal income taxes that most people think of given the title of the bill is but a small part of it. I encourage you to read it and find out what experts have to say about. Many experts, not just one or two Fox news regulars.


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