This week’s summit between leaders of the two Koreas is historic, but the real test of President Donald Trump’s strategy will come later this year, when he sits down with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, an Asia expert said Friday.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Kim agreed Friday to a formal end of the Korean War, which began in 1950 and ceased in 1953 without resolution. The two men also agreed to seek complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.
Michael Pillsbury, director of the Center on Chinese Strategy at the Hudson Institute, said on “The Laura Ingraham Show” that the summit between the two Korean leaders has nothing to do with President Donald Trump or the United States. That will come later, when and if America and North Korea discuss the details of denuclearization, he added.
“Where President Trump has been a negotiating genius is the American part of it,” he told guest host Raymond Arroyo.
Pillsbury noted that Trump offered a glimpse of his approach to the Korean peninsula some 20 years ago when the future president advocated negotiations to halt North Korea’s drive for a nuclear weapon — backed by a military strike, if necessary, with a return to talks afterward.
Kim, Pillsbury said, has responded to Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign. Still, he added, the chances of ultimate success stand only at about 50 percent.
“The most important thing to come is a meeting between President Trump and Chairman Kim,” he said. “That’s where the Nobel Peace Prize will be owed, I think, to President Trump. That’s what the maximum pressure sanctions have been all about.”
Pillsbury attributed the change in North Korean behavior to three factors:
- Economic pressure — the most extreme sanctions ever applied to North Korea
- A show of force — military exercises approaching North Korea
- Talk of returning nuclear weapons to South Korea
Pillsbury said the United States pulled about 760 nuclear weapons out of the Korean peninsula in 1991.
“The idea of returning those to South Korea got the attention of North Korea very quickly,” he said.
Pillsbury said the Trump approach — and the results they have achieved — represent a dramatic break from the administrations of Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton.
“The Obama team, and before them the Clinton and George W. Bush teams, all underestimated how tough North Korea was,” he said. “They all went for sham agreements, and they all got no results. They were basically cheated on.”
Pillsbury cautioned that nothing is assured. The intensely anticipated meeting between Trump and Kim might not even happen. The date of the meeting has been pushed back twice, and the president has dropped hints that he might not attend or would walk out if he determined Kim’s overture was not genuine.
The best outcome, Pillsbury said, would be for North Korea to rejoin the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. That would allow international inspectors back into the country.
Much, however, still can derail those hopes, Pillsbury said.
“I wouldn’t be taking out the champagne bottle yet.”