The art of the deal is in full effect at the Trump White House, and newly-installed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is counting on it paying off in a big way.
At least that’s the takeaway from a Thursday news conference by the nation’s top diplomat in which he promised economic rewards to Pyongyang if the regime agrees to dismantle its nuclear program, saying that Kim Jong Un’s people could “achieve prosperity on a par with our South Korean friends” if it did.
“The United States and the Republic of Korea remain committed to achieving the permanent, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” Pompeo told reporters at a joint news session with South Korea’s top diplomat, Kang Kyung Wha, according to Fox News.
“If Chairman Kim chooses the right path, there is a future brimming with peace and prosperity for the North Korean people,” he continued.
“America’s track record of support for the Korean people is second to none. If North Korea takes bold action to quickly denuclearize, the United States is prepared to work with North Korea to achieve prosperity on a par with our South Korean friends.
“The United States looks forward to continue close cooperation with our South Korean allies on this issue and many others,” he added.
Pompeo said that when it came to the definition of what denuclearization was, “it’s pretty clear what that means.” He noted that “it would be an activity that” ensured “we didn’t end up in the same place that we’d ended up before,” complete with a “robust verification program.”
The news conference came after a whirlwind week for the State Department’s new top man, which began Monday night when he left Andrews Air Force base on a plane bound for North Korea.
Pompeo had an audience with Kim, during which it was announced that three American detainees in North Korea — Kim Dong Chul, Kim Hak Song and Kim Sang Duk — would be released by the regime.
Pompeo also helped set the agenda for the historic summit between Trump and Kim, which is set to take place June 12 in Singapore.
Either way, remarks from the president and his State Department seemed to emphasize how they plan to woo the North Koreans. They’ve already seen the stick in the form of increased sanctions, isolation and military saber-rattling. Now, here’s the carrot.
Pompeo noted that sanctions on Pyongyang would “remain in place until, and unless, we see visible, meaningful action taken by North Korea on the denuclearization track.” However, the subtext was clear: North Korea’s way forward lies only through denuclearization. That’s the baseline for removing the onus of the pariah state tag from Kim’s regime.
There are a lot of things that can happen before, during and after the summit, as Trump has pointed out. However, the fact that Kim is even willing to sit down with him — an occasion which would mark the first meeting between a North Korean leader and a sitting American commander in chief — is at least some fruit that the administration’s strategy has borne thus far.
Trump has said he wants a “victory for the world.” Whether or not he achieves that is anyone’s guess, and there are limitations to counting on the art of the deal when you’re dealing with an arbitrary, despotic regime. However, there are also opportunities for regimes to change, particularly when there’s an exceptionally strong impetus for them to do so.
“Strategic waiting” didn’t provide that impetus for the Juche apparatchiks in Pyongyang. Will the carrot-and-stick approach work? It sounds like both Mike Pompeo and Donald Trump are counting on it.
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