Why a great compromise is possible between Trump and Kim

Trump showed that he was willing to take a gamble with a reclusive regime and a man he has never met before.



US President Donald Trump walked away from the G-7 meeting in a huff hoping for a shot at glory on the other side of the world. Indeed, the meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will be historic whatever the outcome. Forget the statesmanship that media experts are talking about, this is all about showmanship from two men who believe they can have a go at peace and change the destiny of the region. The optics so far have been positive though we cannot be sure of the intent until they move past the initial handshakes and get down to the business of denuclearisation and pulling out troops from the Korean Peninsula. But first the two men would have to build a rapport and develop trust.
Trump showed that he was willing to take a gamble with a reclusive regime and a man he has never met before, even indicating that he could walk away from the meeting with the North Korean leader if the bet doesn't pay off. He got the world's attention, and comrade Kim played along (to everyone's surprise). That surprise turned into delight when Kim showed greater maturity and stayed the course on talks with the United States. Kim has been a revelation, and he could become a star if he manages to strike the right notes with the most powerful man in the world, their past acrimony thrown into the dustbin of history, when they meet in Singapore on Tuesday.
Now to the specifics. Would the two men strike a great compromise or a grand bargain? A great compromise would be the ideal way to end the bitterness as a grand bargain would merely be about numbers. Are expectations too high? No. The Koreas have officially been in a state of war since the 1950s. The Kim dynasty has ruled the North with an iron hand, while South Korea has slowly, but painfully made the transition to democracy and economic prosperity. The gains for Seoul are unsustainable with a rogue nuclear neighbour to the North, and South Korean President Moon Jae-in knows this well.
To him goes the credit for bringing these foes to the table to strike an enduring compromise. Moon's outreach to the North, his relentless courting of Kim, and his emotional connect with his counterpart have made him a real hero. The US wants Pyongyang to dismantle its nukes, while Kim wants US troops out of the peninsula. Both are feasible - in phases. Washington can cut back troops levels to 14,000 from 28,000 under an initial formula, while the North could roll back its programme by half under Seoul's supervision. The International Atomic Energy Agency can come in later. Economic assistance to the North should follow and South Korea could take the lead here. If Trump can keep his ego in check on Tuesday, and Kim sees the reality that Seoul is no longer an enemy, we could see the start of a great compromise.


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