South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s visit to the White House this week was supposed to be fine-tuning for the upcoming Trump-Kim summit. Instead, Moon is going to be under pressure to try to sell Trump on the idea that North Korea wants talks at all.
The meeting is now being called a “crisis session,” after the Trump Administration’s talk of a “Libya model” led to a backlash from North Korea. Moon, who has been a long-time advocate of diplomacy, is now tasked with explaining what happened.
In theory, this shouldn’t be too difficult. North Korea objected to the Libyan model because of what it represents, a nation giving up its WMD program for diplomacy gains that never happened, and then getting violently deposed in a NATO-backed revolution a few years later.
North Korea has been very public about what that’s a problem. US officials, however, seem not to get it, and President Trump’s go-to response was to threaten to see Kim end up dead like Libya’s Gadhafi, which unsurprisingly isn’t helping matters.
Moon’s job is to both convince the Trump Administration that North Korea’s perfectly understandable reaction doesn’t represent them backing away from talks, and more difficultly, convincing the Trump Administration not to do anything else plainly provocative.