What is Kim Jong Un's Strategy in Dealing with Trump?
Van Jackson, a professor of International relations at Victoria University of Wellington and long-time N. Korea expert suspects that Kim's plan is to decouple America from its allies in Asia giving it a freer hand in the region while not giving up its nuclear program. He argues Trump might agree.
Jackson, Writing in Politico: Taking Trump at his word during the campaign—when he decried U.S. allies Japan and South Korea as ungrateful free-riders—it would be reasonable to conclude that Trump is willing to forsake U.S. allies in the region by getting Kim to agree to negotiate away his ICBMs but ultimately leave Kim with a regional nuclear strike capability. Nuclear scholars have worried that a North Korean ICBM capability would “decouple” the United States from South Korea—the question of whether America would trade Seattle for Seoul in a nuclear conflict is a rhetorical one. We know the answer. The irony of a nuclear deal between Kim and Trump may actually be that true decoupling will happen when North Korea retains only the ability to strike U.S. allies but not the United States. Kim can simultaneously give a nod in the direction of denuclearization, remove the imminent threat to the U.S. homeland posed by his ICBMs, and expand a wedge between the United States and its allies.
Why would President Trump accept such an arrangement and allow N. Korea to keep its short range nukes in exchange for a peace pact and sanctions relief? Because every day, tweet by tweet he is staking his reputation on coming away from the table with something he can hold up to the American people as a victory and selling out allies might not be out of the question.
Predicting what will happen in this case is difficult, but Jackson understands what motivates Kim as well as anyone in the West, and he may well have a pretty good handle on Trump too.