Special to WorldTribune.com
Donald Trump may be running neck and neck with Hillary Clinton in the U.S. presidential sweepstakes if the polls are at all credible, but there’s one constituency in which he appears to be well ahead. That’s within the ruling circles in Pyongyang.
He’s winning popularity there for two reasons. The first is that he has said, sure, he’d be glad to talk with Kim Jong-Un, and the second is that he has said U.S. troops are no longer needed in South Korea and Japan. Isn’t that more or less what Pyongyang wants to hear?
Don’t be fooled by the casual remark of a certain North Korean ambassador, back from the Workers’ Party Congress in Pyongyang, that he doubts the newly “elected” party chairman wants to meet the Trumpster.
The ambassador carefully qualified the remark by saying he did not have first-hand knowledge but was only speculating that Trump was talking for political effect in the American presidential campaigns.
While the media was reporting that comment as if it were a formal rejection of a request by Trump, a pro-North blogger said for sure the chairman would like to get going with negotiations. Hasn’t that long been the North’s position?
The blogger’s derisive words about the foreign media suggest that his response had the official blessing of Pyongyang, indeed may have been dictated from there.
Certainly North Korea might find Trump preferable to Hillary Clinton. As a former secretary of state who visited the region a number of times, she gives every impression of being vastly more knowledgeable than the Trumpster about North Korea.
The whole topic of North Korea arose at an interesting moment ― just as President Obama was in Hanoi announcing the lifting of the embargo on U.S. arms sales to Vietnam.
A person awakening from a 50-year coma might not be aware from the headlines that “North” Vietnam had defeated “South” Vietnam more than 40 years ago and that the U.S. president was making nice with the Communists in Hanoi, not the old U.S.-supported Saigon regime.
Obama might deny that lifting the embargo has anything to do with concerns shared by the U.S. and Vietnam over China’s claim to the entire South China Sea, but nobody in this world accepts that remark at face value. Of course, it has everything to do with China.
All of which takes us back to North Korea. Advocates of dialogue with the North persist in saying, well, now we’re getting along with Vietnam ― so why not North Korea? The argument gets truly crazy when they note that North Korea, like Vietnam, has an uneasy relationship with China, on which the North depends for all its oil and half its food.
That’s where Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un might find themselves talking past each other the moment they sat down for a chat. The Trumpster has said boldly, loudly, to the consternation of a lot of people who can’t stand the sound of his voice, that the U.S. should impose immense tariffs on Chinese imports if the Chinese don’t tell North Korea to knock off making nukes and missiles.
Or did he just say the U.S. should impose those tariffs because China is making so many multi-billions from its hugely favorable balance of trade with the U.S.?
Never mind what he said or meant, Trump thinks China has some terrific power over North Korea and should be made to impose its will on Kim Jong-Un. If there’s any reason to support Trump for president, it’s for the fun of watching the reaction in Pyongyang and Beijing if he made such assertions from the White House.
As for how Kim Jong-Un would react if Trump told him to his face, look, fatso, knock off the nukes or we’re gonna get China to go after you, we may be pretty sure the conversation would not go on much longer. In fact, given what Trump has already said on the topic, we doubt if Kim would agree to talks in the first place.
Still, the idea of Trump and Kim filling the same room is intriguing. While North Korea theoretically welcome dialogue, a lot of other questions come up.
For one thing, where would these two bozos meet? Fatso has never traveled outside North Korea since taking over after his father’s death in December 2011. Would Trump be willing to go to Pyongyang? No way.
Here’s an idea. How about if they met in the Joint Security Area in the demilitarized zone at Panmunjom?
I was up there the other day. The U.S. and North Korean generals who are supposed to get together now and then in one of those blue-painted U.N. buildings on the North-South line haven’t met for years. Below that level, talks are rare.
Wouldn’t a Trump-Kim summit at the DMZ be great? Ok, not expecting that to happen, but think about it, what a way to jump-start dialogue.
Donald Kirk has been covering the confrontation on the Korean peninsula for years. He’s at email@example.com.