Let Trump and Kim Meet
On Thursday, Chung Eui Yong, South Korea’s national security advisor, told a stunned group of journalists at the White House that President Donald Trump had accepted an invitation to meet with Kim Jong Un, the leader of North Korea. Like so many other decisions in this White House, this one felt chaotic. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, for example, seemed to learn of the decision to hold the meeting, which is planned to occur by May, only after it was made. (He and other administration officials have since downplayed its significance, though Trump on Friday night tweeted: “The deal with North Korea is very much in the making.”) And yet: While one may wish that Trump acted less impulsively, a Trump-Kim summit is a good idea, one that may solve the problem of a truculent North Korea.
To understand why, it’s important to manage one’s expectations. At a great cost to its citizens, its economy, and its international reputation, North Korea has become a nuclear state. Military action against the Kim regime, or even a “bloody nose” strike targeting a North Korean nuclear facility, could incite war—the main reason the United States hasn’t followed the example of Israel, which bombed a Syrian nuclear installation in 2007. Accepting the reality of a nuclear North Korea is more reasonable than believing there’s a way to force Kim to denuclearize without sparking a devastating war.