Kim-Trump Summit: Larger than life personalities to dictate outcome

World Today

Despite a flurry of behind the scenes diplomacy leading up to the Trump-Kim summit in Vietnam, any successful outcome will largely depend on just the two men at the top.

CGTN’s Sean Callebs reports.

After the first summit with DPRK leader Kim Jong Un last June, U.S. President Donald Trump was gushing, touting its success. But the pact they signed was long on promises, and short on specifics, and the world mostly shrugged.

“Well, people did say ‘concretely, tangibly, what did you get out of the deal?’” according to Sam Yoon of Korean Americans in Action. “Bear in mind, North Korea has been building its nuclear program over decades. It is not going to be dismantled in a year.”

Trump and Kim get all the headlines. They’re the ones the cameras chase. But behind the scenes, carving out the specifics are the leaders’ trusted diplomatic aides.

“The two leaders should focus on the relationship, the bigger picture,” Yoon said. “Those that work for them, get down to the nitty gritty and the details.”

For Team Trump, that includes U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton. The point man for the U.S. is envoy Stephen Biegun, who has visited the DPRK capital of Pyongyang and has been outspoken about what Trump wants out of a deal.

“I think the Vietnam talks could potentially go well, provided that we do not aim for complete and near term total North Korea denuclearization,” according to Michael O’Hanlon, U.S. Defense Strategist at the Brookings Institution. “It is just not realistic.”

O’Hanlon said it’s been a core part of the Kim family legacy dating back to the 1960’s; the country won’t readily give up nuclear weapons even for economic growth.

For Team Kim, the list includes Ri Yong Ho, the DPRK foreign minister who called Trump “President Evil” at the U.N. General Assembly in 2017. There’s also Kim Yong Chol, who is considered Kim’s right-hand man and the nation’s former military intelligence chief.

For all the backroom discussions, experts believe that the success or failure of this summit will hinge on just two people, with reputations in many ways larger than life: Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un.

Kathryn Botto on Kim-Trump Vietnam Summit

Kathryn Botto, a research analyst in the Asia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, discusses the upcoming Kim-Trump Summit in Vietnam with CGTN’s Elaine Reyes.