If this was a planned exercise, the White House has done a bang-up job of keeping it completely secret until last night. And if it wasn’t, this is another case of the President flying by the seat of his pants and engaging in foreign policy via social media (something he’s proven quite adept at doing at times). The President announced that during his one day trip to South Korea after the conclusion of the G-20 summit he would be willing to stop by the DMZ to meet North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un for a “handshake” across the border. (The Hill)
President Trump on Friday said he would be willing to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in the demilitarized zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea after the Group of 20 summit that’s taking place this weekend in Japan.
“After some very important meetings, including my meeting with President Xi of China, I will be leaving Japan for South Korea (with President Moon). While there, if Chairman Kim of North Korea sees this, I would meet him at the Border/DMZ just to shake his hand and say Hello(?)!” Trump tweeted.
“I’m gonna be there for a day. I understand that’s one of the places I’ll be visiting,” Trump said during an exclusive interview with The Hill on Monday.
After some very important meetings, including my meeting with President Xi of China, I will be leaving Japan for South Korea (with President Moon). While there, if Chairman Kim of North Korea sees this, I would meet him at the Border/DMZ just to shake his hand and say Hello(?)!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 28, 2019
For his part, Little Rocket Man reportedly responded by calling it an “interesting” proposal. But as of this writing, he had neither officially accepted nor declined the invitation. The one person who will be the happiest about this (if it happens) is South Korean President Moon Jae-in. He’s been desperately trying to keep rapprochement on the Korean Peninsula moving forward ever since Donald Trump got the ball rolling, and seeing us making nice with Kim makes his job a lot easier.
But is this even possible? As I mentioned above, perhaps this has been in the works for a while now and the White House has somehow managed to prevent the news from leaking out. But if this was just something Trump thought up in the middle of the conference, the Secret Service must be having conniption fits about now. Planning any presidential public appearance is a heavy logistical lift for them, but the President is talking about strolling into the middle of what is technically still a war zone.
To top it all off, when asked by reporters, Trump said that he would be willing to physically cross the border and walk into North Korea with Kim as a sign of good faith. That sound you just heard was the head of the Secret Service cracking open a 1.75-liter bottle of Jack Daniels.
So what does President Trump get out of this if he manages to make this handshake happen? There won’t be time for any serious negotiations, so it’s unlikely he walks back into South Korea with any sort of tangible win. But it might be enough of a show of good faith to kick-start the denuclearization talks again. Also, you know how the President loves setting records. If he steps over that line he will be the first sitting U.S. President in history to visit the hermit kingdom. (Bill Clinton has been to Pyongyang, but he did so nearly a decade after leaving office. Jimmy Carter went in 1994 and met with Kim Il Sung.)
Of course, this all depends on Kim accepting the offer. Prying him out of his palace with all of the security personnel that entails might be tough to pull off overnight. But he does enjoy being treated like he’s just another normal leader of a nation rather than a totally isolated despot, so the temptation may be too much for him to resist.