Does Kim See Trump as His Savior?

Former U.S. Army vice chief of staff Jack Keane said N. Korean leader is looking at staying secure and in power for years

North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un is willing to negotiate denuclearization because he views President Donald Trump as his long-term ticket for remaining in power and gaining security for his regime, retired four-star Army Gen. Jack Keane said Tuesday on Fox News’ “America’s Newsroom.”

“[Kim’s] number one concern is not prosperity, not economic — certainly that’s important to him. I’m not suggesting it’s not. But clearly this has always been about security,” Keane said. “Why nuclear weapons? Why ballistic missiles? Why pointing them at the United States? All because he wants his regime to be secure and stay in power.”

Noting that Kim is “a young man” in his 30s who is “looking at many, many years down the road,” Keane emphasized that the North Korean leader “wants this regime to stay in power. And clearly that’s got to be on the table, and we will have to provide him some kind of guarantor for that as part of our negotiations and our concessions.”

Kim stunned the world when he agreed to a June 12 summit meeting, in Singapore with Trump, that would mark the first such gathering since the communist nation first formed in 1948. But Trump canceled the meeting Thursday “based on the tremendous anger and open hostility” displayed after a North Korean official bashed Vice President Mike Pence while threatening to instigate a nuclear showdown.

But Trump’s cancellation seemed to spark renewed efforts by Kim to get the summit meeting back on track, if not for June 12, then at a later date. After Kim met for a second time with South Korean President Moon Jae-in over the weekend, the North Korean leader sent one of his top officials, Kim Yong-chol, to the U.S. this week to meet with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and continue the planning discussions. Kim Yong-chol is the most senior member of a North Korean regime to set foot on U.S. soil since 2000.

Keane, the former vice chief of staff of the U.S. Army and now a Fox News contributor, told host Bill Hemmer that Kim is strategizing how best to attain his ultimate goal: regime security.

Pompeo said during an interview on “Fox News Sunday” earlier this month that the U.S. would need to “provide security assurances” stipulating that Kim may stay in power as part of the denuclearization negotiations.

“This has been the trade-off that has been pending for 25 years,” Pompeo said. “No president has ever put America in a position where the North Korean leadership thought that this was truly possible, that the Americans would actually do this, would lead to the place where America was no longer held at risk by the North Korean regime.”

Trump, soon after being sworn in as president, took a firm stand in dealing with Kim, implementing the toughest sanctions ever imposed by the U.S. against North Korea, while ridiculing Kim as the “rocket man.”

Trump also put in place two U.S. Navy carrier battle groups while mounting aggressive demonstrations of U.S. air power to lend credence to his promises of a massive retaliation against North Korea in the event it mounted attacks on either South Korea or America.

Although many liberal mainstream media figures joined Democrats in warning that Trump’s aggressive stance and “fire and fury” rhetoric would bring about a third world war, such a conflict seems remote now that Kim is redoubling his efforts to meet with Trump.

“I think everyone now — China, North Korea, and even South Korea — know that this president is not going to be played after a lot of the shenanigans that’s been going on the last couple of weeks,” Keane said.

The U.S. delegation sent to discuss salvaging the summit over the weekend wanted to gauge whether North Korea is serious about denuclearizing, Keane said.

“When it comes to denuclearization, is this an aspirational thing that they want to do and just partially denuclearize, or do they really have a plan?” Keane asked of Kim and his officials.

Related: Trump Withdraws from North Korea Summit

But Trump and the U.S. would only accept from North Korea “a full accounting of all your nuclear weapons and your ballistic missiles” and their willingness “to open up that entire disarming and dismantling process so we have full verification of the entire process,” Keane said.

Another important presupposition for the summit would be discovering whether North Korea plans to denuclearize “in a reasonable amount of time” or expects “to drag this out over many years way beyond the president’s term in office so that it’s more of a promise than a delivery of denuclearization.”

Although Keane admitted that Kim “likely” will not agree “with all of that,” he speculated that the summit’s fate could be “resolved through negotiation.”

“If it can’t, I think their recommendation would be that the president delay the summit,” Keane said. “If they think it can be resolved through some negotiation … then I think the summit will be on.”

PoliZette writer Kathryn Blackhurst can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter.

(photo credit, article image: Donald Trump, CC BY-SA 2.0, by Gage Skidmore)

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PoliZette writer Kathryn Blackhurst can be reached at [email protected].