As we wait for actual news to come out of the initial bilateral meeting between the President and Kim Jong Un with only interpreters present, just a few thoughts of what to look for as the evening/night here in the US wears on.
- The initial bilateral meeting is only the President, Kim, and interpreters. No note takers. This is significant and may lead to completely different read outs of the meeting. With the US presenting a read out that indicates the meeting went one way and the DPRK releasing one that contradicts it. Or, as has been the case so often, the US not releasing a read out until forced to because the other party to the meeting released one that cast the President in a bad light. Or details leaked from within the administration that did the same thing. This is why you never go into one of these meetings without your own interpreter and your own note taker!
- It has been reported that the communique has already been written and agreed to. While this isn’t all that uncommon, it will be interesting to see how different the communique is from either or both of the read outs, let alone the leaks, from the initial bilateral meetings or from whatever the President tweets once the summit is over.
- Earlier today it was reported that Secretary Mattis was unsure if a reduction of US forces in South Korea is on the agenda for discussion. While I doubt that Secretary Pompeo would have allowed it to be part of the structured discussion in the second meeting, given how the President operates it is one of the potential wild cards that could throw everyone for a loop.
- Despite stating otherwise on Friday before leaving for the G7 summit, the President will not be bringing up the DPRK’s human rights issues, so don’t expect that to be addressed in the read outs or the communique.
- It was reported last week that Kim’s envoy, Kim Yong Chol, pitched a development opportunity to the President when he met with him last week in the White House. Specifically a casino development project in the DPRK. If this is indeed an accurate report, then the Trump Doctrine, “I will be treated fairly or else”, is in play. (I’ll have more on the Trump Doctrine tomorrow in regard to Jeffrey Goldberg’s article in The Atlantic. The Bottom Line Up Front is that Goldberg has mistaken sloganeering for a strategic narrative.)
- Keep in mind that Kim has already gotten what he needed out of this summit. He’s meeting with the President of the United States; he got to go out on the town last night; a possible invite for a follow on summit in the US – either at the White House or Mar a Lago – has been floated by the President; rumored assurances of his regimes survival and significant economic aid. Up to this point Kim hasn’t had to do anything he wasn’t going to do anyway in exchange for all of this.
- Watch to see if the schedule is stuck to or if the initial bilateral meeting between the President and Kim runs late.