As Steve discussed earlier today, President Trump has cancelled his planned summit with Kim Jong Un. As a fan of the NBA, Kim should have seen it coming. When obnoxious leftist leaders of the Golden State Warriors indicated they might not come to the White House to be honored, Trump “uninvited” them. So Kim shouldn’t have been surprised that when his regime suggested it might cancel the summit, Trump beat him to the punch.
Trump’s letter to Kim is a fine piece of one-upsmanship, but it’s more than just that. Here is the text:
Dear Mr. Chairman:
We greatly appreciate your time, patience, and effort with respect to our recent negotiations and discussions relative to a summit long sought by both parties, which was scheduled to take place on June 12 in Singapore. We were informed that the meeting was requested by North Korea, but that to us is totally irrelevant. I was very much looking forward to being there with you. Sadly, based on the tremendous anger and open hostility displayed in your most recent statement, I feel it is inappropriate, at this time, to have this long-planned meeting. Therefore, please let this letter serve to represent that the Singapore summit, for the good of both parties, but to the detriment of the world, will not take place. You talk about nuclear capabilities, but ours are so massive and powerful that I pray to God they will never have to be used.
I felt a wonderful dialogue was building up between you and me, and ultimately, it is only that dialogue that matters. Some day, I look very much forward to meeting you. In the meantime, I want to thank you for the release of the hostages who are now home with their families. That was a beautiful gesture and was very much appreciated.
If you change your mind having to do with this most important summit, please do not hesitate to call me or write. The world, and North Korea in particular, has lost a great opportunity for lasting peace and great prosperity and wealth. This missed opportunity is a truly sad moment in history.
I had thought a meeting with Kim was probably a good idea even though Kim isn’t going to denuclearize and Trump isn’t likely to settle for anything less. It’s important for Trump to get a good sense of Kim in order to manage relations with a new and unpredictable nuclear power. The meeting would further that goal, it seemed to me.
On reflection, however, a meeting preceded by intense acrimony — “tremendous anger and open hostility” as Trump puts it — might well have been counterproductive — “inappropriate,” as Trump says. If Kim was going aggressively to posture, as seemed likely, Trump would not have learned any more about him than he already knows.
Trump has learned plenty about Kim through the process culminating in the meeting’s cancellation. For one thing, Mike Pompeo met with Kim and got a chance to size him up. More than that, the entire dance was instructive. Meanwhile, North Korea, which reportedly has desperately been seeking information from Americans about what Trump is really like, has learned something about our president, but less than Trump has learned about him.
The letter shows that Trump expects the dance to continue. Twice, he alludes to the possibility of a meeting in the future.
In addition, Trump’s statement that “ultimately, it only [our] dialogue that matters” seems telling. I think Trump is reminding Kim that, contrary the regime’s claim that the only alternatives are a meeting or a nuclear confrontation, there is a third way — dialogue.
Once a nation becomes a nuclear power, we have no good alternative to dialogue. Dialogue doesn’t preclude an attack on the fledgling power, but it’s vastly preferable in most scenarios. Trump gives away a little bit of his “unpredictably” by telling Kim that their dialogue matters, but saying this is still worthwhile.
The letter treats Kim as a significant world player, which he is. But it is demonstrates that Trump and the U.S. are not to be trifled with.
I think the letter strikes just the right tone and sends the correct message.