22 September 2018          home | subject timeline

Kim Jong-un's Dream

Washington Post columnist David Ignatius writes: "We doubted the showy Korea summits. But now we’re seeing the seeds of a deal." John Delury, an associate professor of Chinese studies at Yonsei University, in Seoul, writes in the NY Times: "Kim Jong-un Has a Dream. The U.S. Should Help Him Realize It."

The Ignatius article was followed by reader comments, including outrage at the suggestion that Trump could wander into doing anything beneficial. One pessimistic reader complained that North Korea would remain a threat until the "Kim regime is gone." Another reader wrote:

History and facts show quite clearly that Kim isn't going to dismantle anything. Not ever.

One reader accused Ignatius of "living off of making ridiculous excuses for Trump's incompetence." And, more about motives, he writes of North Korea having made a "complete fool" of Trump." For him the summit at Singapore back in June was two characters void of any good intentions (like comic book villains) putting something over on each other and the world.

Someone wrote of Kim getting South Korea's leader, Moon, to order US forces to leave and then "Kim will look at Moon and say your country is now mine or else I will destroy Seoul. Without the US there Moon will have no choice but to give up without firing a shot."

Someone adds that the US is being "played like a fiddle." Someone else asks where he can "get some of what Ignatius is smoking?"

Someone else draws from history:

North Korea has been playing the same game for decades. Play rough until everybody panics, play nice until everybody makes concessions, then play rough again when it would be North Korea's time to make concessions.

More bad motives: "Kim Jong-un is manipulative and using Moon Jae-in to keep DJT [Trump] in play.

John Delury, on the other hand, sees more than malevolent intensions. In his NY Times piece he mentions the criticism of negotiations as half-steps, if not traps, and the lack of a roadmap or timeline for the complete denuclearization of North Korea. But, writes Delury, regarding Moon's visit to North Korea that just ended, "the prevailing preoccupation with defense issues obscures a truly notable feature of Mr. Moon’s visit: the group of business leaders he brought along, including from Samsung and South Korea's other major conglomerates.

Delury puts Kim's strategy and tactics with an archetype "familiar here in East Asia: the strongman who sets his country on the path of economic development." Delury writes:

Mr. Kim wants to be a great economic reformer. And the United States should help him, because that’s the best way to sustain progress toward denuclearization and eventually eliminate the threat posed by North Korea.

What does South Korea's Prime Minister Moon want? An "irreversible, permanent peace" with the North, a goal that reduces the importance of a military alliance with the US.

Someone predicts that Kim regime will not suddenly stop ruling North Korea with an iron hand. "No, of course not."

North and South Korea might have different political systems for decades to come. Some want to remind us of Stalin, Pol Pot and Mao's Cultural Revolution, but a drop in the kind of intense conflict that can be context for dictators (and others) to pursue murderous policies is already bringing the North and South together somewhat.

A reader responding to the Ignatius article writes:

Kim will not give up his nuclear capabilities completely, but he might make significant other concessions to allay Western fears of proliferation. If this serves to evolve North Korea into a more stable regime, we should call that a win.

(My first article concerning the Singapore Summit was on June 16. It cost me followers.)

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Copyright © 2018 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.