Who’s Afraid of Talking With Kim Jong Un?

Americans should welcome President Trump’s apparent willingness to speak with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, but instead naysayers are warning of dire consequences, Jonathan Marshall explains.

By Jonathan Marshall

Three months ago, I quoted approvingly Donald Trump’s campaign pledge to supporters in Atlanta that he would “absolutely” speak to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un even if there were only a “10 percent or a 20 percent chance that I can talk him out of those damn nukes.”

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

“What the hell is wrong with speaking?” the candidate said. “We should be eating a hamburger on a conference table.”

This week, the ever-mercurial President Trump agreed to take Kim up on a surprise offer to meet face-to-face in two months to search for peace. The meeting will be the first ever held between the leaders of the United States and North Korea, two countries that remain technically at war.

Whether the two men agree to eat hamburgers or kimchi, Americans should applaud Trump’s renewed willingness to talk rather than fight. Instead, all manner of naysayers are warning of potentially dire consequences. A few of their points have merit, but none outweigh the likely consequences of doing nothing to stop an impending war.

For the past year, the two leaders have communicated only by trading epithets like “Little Rocket Man” and “lunatic mean old trickster and human reject.” Such exchanges would be entertaining if President Trump had not also threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea and bring down “fire and fury like the world has never seen.” While Pyongyang has tested new warheads and missiles, Washington has been conducting war exercises and moving nuclear-capable stealth bombers and submarines within range of North Korea.

The Unacceptable Risk of War

In recent months, experts have put the odds of a catastrophic war—which would likely kill hundreds of thousands of Americans in addition to countless Koreans and Japanese—at between 25 and 50 percent. President Trump’s foreign-policy adviser, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, said the likelihood of Trump launching a preemptive war will rise to 70 percent if North Korea conducts another nuclear test. “At the pace we’re on, it’s just a matter of time,” he added.

Yet instead of hailing the prospect of talks as a great win for the life expectancy of people on both sides of the Pacific, some analysts insist on treating Kim’s proposal as a zero sum game.

“By some assessments, this is really a victory for Kim, who for years has sought proof of his status and North Korea’s power by dangling the offer of leader-to-leader talks with the United States,” writes Karen DeYoung, senior national security correspondent for the Washington Post.

And liberal New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, while claiming that he is “all for negotiations,” focuses on his “fear” that Trump “has given North Korea what it has long craved: the respect and legitimacy that comes from the North Korean leader standing as an equal beside the American president.”

Does Kristof really think peace will be easier to achieve by disrespecting Kim and insisting on his illegitimacy? Deep down, does Kristof care more about one-upmanship than preventing nuclear war?

Will Trump Flub the Deal?

Many critics also warn that North Korea will take advantage of Trump’s ignorance and lack of preparation to gain some unspecified advantage.

“President Trump’s infamous penchant for going off script and his admiration of authoritarian types could weaken our negotiating position,” declared Suzanne DiMaggio of the Washington-based New America Foundation, who helped arrange backdoor diplomatic contacts between the two countries last year.

Zack Beauchamp, a news analyst for Vox.com, warns that Trump is “very easy to manipulate” and “easily swayed by flattery,” weaknesses that make it “easy to imagine the North Koreans tricking Trump into a deal that, in the long term, helps their strategic position while hurting America’s.”

Not to be outdone, senior White House and national security reporters for CNN caution, “there’s a real chance Trump could be walking into a massive trap.”

Critics are right that Trump knows almost nothing about Korea. (“It’s not so easy,” he conceded last year, after talking with Chinese President Xi.) Trump has yet to appoint an ambassador to South Korea. The president doesn’t bother to talk with his Secretary of State, who said only hours before the White House announcement, “We’re a long way from negotiations.” And persistent reports suggest that Trump’s national security adviser, H. R. McMaster, is on his way out—bad timing, if true.

But what is Trump likely to bargain away out of ignorance or vanity? Perhaps, critics fear, he will relax sanctions, agree to scale back military exercises with South Korea, or start exploring a long-term peace deal with North Korea before first nailing down iron-clad guarantees of North Korean nuclear disarmament.

But none of those measures would put the security of South Korea, much less the United States, at risk. No one seriously believes North Korea can win a conventional war. And its small arsenal of nuclear warheads is useful only for deterring a preemptive U.S. attack. Any other use would invite the total annihilation of North Korea.

The Danger of Overconfidence

One legitimate worry is that an unprepared Trump may engage in talks with false expectations of a quick PR victory, overconfident that economic sanctions have forced North Korea to the table.

“If Trump goes . . . and expects to announce a denuclearized North Korea, he will leave disappointed and maybe angry enough to believe that talks are useless and only military options are left,” says Vipin Narang, associate professor of political science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Trump needs to understand that Kim sees nuclear weapons as essential to his regime’s security. Dismantling his arsenal and opening up his country to intrusive inspections in order to ease sanctions would simply make his regime prey to a resumption of sanctions at a later date—without the benefit of a credible deterrent.

Kim will disarm, if ever, only after years of confidence-building, bolstered by guarantees from other powers, and after Washington signs a permanent peace treaty. The same conditions will doubtless be required before North Korea significantly liberalizes human rights.

Trump should go into the talks with the more modest but absolutely vital aim of heading off an impending war. Realistic near-term goals include freezing further missile and warhead testing by North Korea and eliciting guarantees against proliferation of North Korea’s technology to other countries.

To achieve those ends, he may need—in consultation with Seoul—to restrain U.S.-South Korean war exercises and partially relax sanctions. He and Kim should also map out a reasonable timetable for negotiating a final peace settlement between our countries. But Trump should refuse to let critics at home dissuade him from seeking an alternative to war.

Jonathan Marshall is author or co-author of five books on international relations and history. His articles on Korea include “No Time for Complacency over Korea War Threat,” “America Isn’t on the Brink of Nuclear War—It Just Looks That Way,” “What’s Wrong with Talking to North Korea?,” “Trump’s North Korea Delusions,” “The New Trump: War President,” “Hurtling Toward Fire and Fury,” “Risk to US from War on North Korea,” “North Korea Fears ‘Regime Change’ Strike,” “The Negotiation Option With North Korea,” and “Behind the North Korean Nuke Crisis.”

69 comments for “Who’s Afraid of Talking With Kim Jong Un?

  1. RickD
    March 13, 2018 at 07:38

    While dialogue is obviously necessary between nations and their leaders this is not a normal situation.

    Donald J Trump , while certainly a national embarrassment, is also a virtual loaded gun whose comments are as unpredictable as they are mercurial. He is so very uninformed, so very ignorant, abysmally so, that to envision him sitting across a table with any world leader, much less one who quite possibly matches him for egomania and unpredictability is more than scary.

  2. Peter Loeb
    March 13, 2018 at 06:58


    Russia invaded and annexed Ukraine. Evidently Senator Sanders
    never noted the coup by the US with the cooperation of pro-Hitler
    troops with swastikas.

    And so on and so forth.

    Well, Senator Sanders has always said he was an “independent”
    so you never know what he’s dealing while he’s giving speeches
    to adoring crowds about Medicare for All, a good plan which
    will probably never materialize….

    I fought hard for a similar plan years ago. So did many others.

    As pianist/entertainer Fats Waller of the 30’s and 40’s used to say:

    “One never knows do one?”

    (Full disclosure: I have always been suspicious of this savior’s
    innocence as a given.)

    —-Peter Loeb, Boston, MA, USA

  3. March 13, 2018 at 05:48

    The most surreal thing about this affair is that the U.S. still considers itself at war with a country it share no borders with whatsoever and is on a different continent nearly five thousand miles away. Yet governments and the media have brainwashed us into believing that this is acceptable behavior. I’ve commented on sites before that South Korea is effectively under occupation as its military forces are under the control of the U.S.. Some replies have challenge that assessment, but it is a fact, and no country that does not have complete control of its own military can be considered an independent democracy. The U.S. shouldn’t be in South Korea, as it could just as easily come to the country’s aid should North Korea mount an invasion. It is there because it likes to keep the Chinese on their toes, not because of Kim Jong Un. There are plenty of tyrannical dictators just as bad, or even worse, than Kim Jong Un. And some of them are much nearer to the U.S.. The problem with that is that the U.S. was probably responsible for putting them there.

  4. March 13, 2018 at 05:44

    The most surreal thing about this affair is that the U.S. still considers itself at war with a country it share no borders with whatsoever and is on a different continent. Yet governments and the media have brainwashed us into believing that this is acceptable behavior. I’ve commented on sites before that South Korea is effectively under occupation as its military forces under the control of the U.S.. Some replies have challenge that assessment, but no country that does not have complete control of its own military can be considered an independent democracy. The U.S. shouldn’t be in South Korea, as it could just as easily come to the country’s aid should North Korea mount an invasion. It is there because it likes to keep the Chinese on their toes, not because of Kim Jong Un. There are plenty of tyrannical dictators just as bad, or even worse, than Kim Jong Un. And some of them are much nearer to the U.S.. The problem with that is that the U.S. was probably responsible for putting them there.

  5. Gregory Kruse
    March 12, 2018 at 23:16

    Mr. Marshall has witnessed with the rest of us as Mr. Trump makes a show of doing something sensible and/or decent, and then reverts to his usual nature of doing something insensible and indecent. I have no trust in his words whatsoever.

  6. Rong Cao
    March 12, 2018 at 21:59

    Will this talks with Kim a prelude to the potential future talks between America and Hamas?

  7. Zachary Smith
    March 12, 2018 at 20:56

    And liberal New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, while claiming that he is “all for negotiations,” focuses on his “fear” that Trump “has given North Korea what it has long craved: the respect and legitimacy that comes from the North Korean leader standing as an equal beside the American president.”

    My first thought was of how this is a preemptive attack on any negotiations Trump might decide to undertake with Iran.

    At a second glance, I think that word “liberal” isn’t appropriate. This fellow’s Wiki says he was for the Iraq invasion. That he was in favor of the destruction of Libya. He’s against anti-sweatshop movements. Then there is this:

    Kristof contrasts “two Israels”: an oppressive security state in the Palestinian territories and a “paragon of justice, decency, fairness – and peace,” in the work of Israeli human rights activists, journalists, and jurists.[43]

    The man obviously isn’t stupid enough to believe the “two Israels” BS is anything but fantasy. He’s a slick propagandist who has a handful of public stances like retaining Social Security and advocating universal health care. Since I believe even the nuttiest of the Trumpies would also be in favor of the first one, and the non-crazy ones liking the second, the overwhelming balance pushes Kristof right out of any “liberal” consideration. Far better to refer to the man as “a NYT columnist”.

  8. Rob Nichols
    March 12, 2018 at 20:17

    This is a time to heed the words of wisdom of someone who learned through trial and (many) errors “it is better to jaw jaw than to war war.” That person was Winston Churchill. We lose nothing by temporarily suspending the arrogance that has pervaded US foreign policy for decades, that our “prestige” is at stake.

  9. Mark Thomason
    March 12, 2018 at 15:42

    I’ve said much the same as this article, and in reply heard many versions of they support talking, they just don’t support Trump doing anything. Hillary could do the same, and that would be fine with them.

    Of course it is Hillary who was the neocon, and she would never have done this. She did not even support the deal with Iran, and openly talked of nuking them.

  10. Silly Me
    March 12, 2018 at 07:26

    By now, it seems to be clear that the US objective is to arm Japan, probebly with nuclear capability, while placing nuclear-capable missile launchers next to China.

    What’s unclear is what the powers who so willingly waste the taxpayer’s money get out of this apart from making bankers richer (well, that’s probably the idea, anyway ). Only a lunatic can believe in a preemptive nuclear strike.

  11. mike k
    March 11, 2018 at 21:44

    Those who are against talking, have only one other option – force. They seek to get the results they want through war. And by the way, economic and food blockade is an act of war according to the Geneva Conventions.

    • mike k
      March 11, 2018 at 21:46

      In case anyone hasn’t figured it out yet, the US is the number one bully and war maker, liar, and cheat in the world.

  12. Delia Ruhe
    March 11, 2018 at 18:21

    “Who’s Afraid of Talking With Kim Jong Un?” That’s a question that needs to be asked of the neocon-dominated Deep State, which is operating according to that “playbook” with its insistence on bombs before talk, and talk only when the enemy embraces “unconditional surrender,” regime change, and complete state re-building.

    • March 12, 2018 at 14:14

      The fear of the deep state is if the North Korean threat is neutralized or otherwise dispelled that the military encirclement of Russia and China is greatly weakened. They really could care less about North Korea and may even prefer that North Korea retains its nuclear arsenal which provides an excuse for continuing the encirclement policy of Russia and China. Notice the absurd argument of the State department that anti-ballistic missile defense in Eastern Europe is intended to prevent a missile attack from North Korea.

  13. mike k
    March 11, 2018 at 15:47

    It’s inevitable that a life and death showdown like this one with North Korea will attract a multitude of kibitzers. But we might keep in mind that those of us on the sidelines have very little control over how this goes down. After we have shared our thoughts, maybe we should just say a short prayer of hope that it all goes well for peace in our troubled world.

  14. March 11, 2018 at 10:38

    Joe Tedesky, I think I forgot to press the Post Comment button yesterday when I remarked on the Pat Buchanan article you cited. I was halfway through repeating my comments today when it was wiped away, which I assume was my fault. Pat Buchanan sums up our foreign policy since the fall of the USSR as only he can. But I think the most important point I took from the article is our “our way or the highway” approachand that our foreign policy should always to seek accommodation where it is possible, i.e., to talk. I don’t know if he was specific on the matter, but I think he leads to the fact that our diplomatic language has grown courser. Obama, supposed the leader of the most powerful nation in the world except for its morality, felt compelled to insult and patronize Putin and Russia like a school yard kid. It is remarkable given the constant insults, accusations, and provocations against Russia Putin and Lavrov have been above responding in the same way.

  15. fudmier
    March 11, 2018 at 01:16


    Talks with NK propaganda redirect blindside the activities in the place where WWIII is really sizzling.
    have a look at what the opposition is saying.. 60,000 new troops to Syria? Come on guys
    NK cannot hold a candle to the issues in Syria.. Its about military support for the oil interest.

  16. iwata kenji
    March 11, 2018 at 00:37

    We should compare Kim Jong Un with Assad to clarify the situation. Trump and/or “Deep state” are mercelessly hostile toward Syrian predident, while he is very tolerant to Korean dictator despite his ostensibly verbal aggression. Historically, US gave excetional favors to North Korea, including KEDO program. Why? North Korea and its “communist” regime is essential for US to contain democratic or leftist movement and parties into a negligible space in Japan. The country have been serving as compelling excuse for US and Japan militaro-industry to build up huge weaponery and maitain military presence in Japan, in particular in Okinawa. Mr. Jonathan believes that Kim Jong Un will give up his nuclear ambition after many years of confidence-builing efforts. but after that what fate will await him? Hundreds of thousand people have been killed or died because of his tyranny. He will be exempted from procesution? His fear does not come from US, but from the people itsself.

    • Martin - Swedish citizen
      March 11, 2018 at 18:28

      Interesting angle!
      Would Japanese people in general welcome a rapprochement and release of tension between the Koreas?
      What role can or will Japan play? After all, Japan is a very powerful country.
      Do Japanese want the US to withdraw from Japan?
      I assume, the US is there also to contain China and Russia?

  17. elmerfudzie
    March 11, 2018 at 00:10

    Jonathan Marshall, I’d like to offer a title for your next article: “The Worm Turns” Un (the worm) will get a bona fide peace treaty, in writing, when his a-bombs are in the hands of a neutral third party country, a country willing to accept, possesses technical know-how on security/storage, is capable of dismantling the weapons… Finland perhaps?, and by-the-way, not on their dime! For the sake of world peace, Russia, China and the USA must equally share the costs of financing this nuclear decommissioning process. The endeavor will be a new glasnost, where Un performs a sincere, public, mea culpa announcing his rejection of nukes, releasing political prisoners, accepting the mark of Cain for killing family members and bringing to full disclosure (with closure), those remaining issues such as kidnapping foreign nationals. A new glasnost, where the three (aforementioned) great powers, begin a slow process; reduce inter-state animosities, announcing a mutually agreed to, formal treaty, resolving the Korean crisis. To carefully prepare and set a timeline for the creation of democracy, or semblance thereof, for North Korea. I can already hear the bruxism in the mouths of Un and the CCP, all the way across the Pacific…It somewhat surprises me that this crisis, just may prove to be a catalyst that brings east and west together on grave matters such as hyper-sonic weapons, launch-on-warning, artificial intelligence in weaponry, nuclear weapons proliferation and maritime privileges (both on the surface and mining the ocean floor). A last chance! CONSORTIUMNEWS readers, will the Western Occident take it? Un, will you take that last chance? to confess your political sins, repent by cooperation with international arbitration or will you accept the alternate, easy way, a generous buy-out, just as the Americans provided to Saddam’s generals and their close family members? Did someone say a big Dasha in Switzerland? with a even bigger entourage of security personnel for the sake of your “divine” protection Un?
    As our POTUS would surely say, let’s make a deal!

  18. Realist
    March 10, 2018 at 20:46

    North Korea gives up its nukes only if Washington agrees to shut down its garrisons and totally withdraw from the Korean peninsula, which is not going to happen because America will never be willing to relinquish that threat to China. If North Korea disarms and allows the Americans to stay in South Korea, they will be overrun in short order no matter what promises Washington makes. Washington has proven to be a liar time and again. Just ask Putin, Mr. Kim.

    The best possible agreement the parties can realistically make is to promise not to launch a first strike against the other. Again, see the caveat above about America keeping promises or adhering to treaties. Moreover, Washington has never been willing to make such a no-strike promise, not even to Russia or China. The most realistic prediction is that nothing substantive can come of the meeting. Washington is basically asking the North Korean government to commit suicide. I can’t believe they would actually expect it to happen.

    Right now, Trump’s advisors are agonising over how they will explain the big nothing burger, that is this meeting, to be served up to the American people. I’m sure it will be something along the lines of, see, we were flexible and those commies were intransigent, as always. They only understand force. In a best-case scenario, maybe they will opt for the false promises of no first strike, but that will be roundly condemned by the bipartisan war mongers as appeasement and selling out, perhaps even treason.

    • Joe Tedesky
      March 11, 2018 at 00:57

      That’s why for all the reasons you stated Realist I believe Kim Jung un May feel safe under Putin’s defensive umbrella.

      “I should note that our military doctrine says Russia reserves the right to use nuclear weapons solely in response to a nuclear attack, or an attack with other weapons of mass destruction against the country or its allies, or an act of aggression against us with the use of conventional weapons that threaten the very existence of the state. This all is very clear and specific.

      As such, I see it is my duty to announce the following. Any use of nuclear weapons against Russia or its allies, weapons of short, medium or any range at all, will be considered as a nuclear attack on this country. Retaliation will be immediate, with all the attendant consequences.” Vladimir Putin, Presidential Address to the Federal Assembly 2018

      Take note of how Putin’s use of the word allies is in reference to Russia’s strategic defense is added.

      It’s for this reason I believe Kim Jung un is relaxing his own missile program. I could be wrong, but you must admit the timing is a bit uncanny. Joe

      • Realist
        March 11, 2018 at 03:31

        Yes, Joe, I remember I wrote a response to Putin’s remarks directed at “allies,” the identity of whom I questioned at the time. I opined that I could see Russia going to all out war with Washington if Ukraine, Iran, Syria, Lebanon or other bordering countries–as in the Caucuses, including places like Georgia, Ossetia, Abkhazia, & Armenia–were attacked or occupied by American troops. I was skeptical that he’d do the same for North Korea, leaving that responsibility to China. If things started going badly for China v Washington, I thought he’d probably have to step in–first issue warnings and only later taking action to keep China from being defeated, because if they were, the war wouldn’t end there. It would be the day Uncle Sam attempts to settle all family business.

        The young Mr. Kim may be making assumptions if he thinks Putin’s remarks were enough of a guarantee to give up his nukes without any meaningful reciprocal action by Washington. To me, that would have to mean withdrawing all those American troops and missiles from his border. White man speak with forked tongue all the time and those troops could be in Pyongyang in a day without a reliable deterrent.

        If I were he, I wouldn’t count on Russia risking WWIII to save my regime, especially upon seeing America in the throes of war fever. I’m not sure I’d trust China to do so either, if Washington was at Defcon 1. I think Saker has a pretty good finger on the pulse of Putin’s geopolitical philosophy, which, he says, is highly conservative and non-confrontational, putting highest priority on avoiding direct conflict with the United States. Any pushing and shoving you do see is on the part of Uncle Sam. I can’t see Putin giving Kim assurances that would be sure to outrage Washington. The cost/benefit ratio is just too unfavorable for Russia.

  19. mike k
    March 10, 2018 at 16:46

    As in many affairs, the solution is simple and obvious: Withdraw all American troops from Korea, and let North and South solve their problems without our interference. But as is usual, the US with it’s plans of global domination refuses to consider the only real solution for Korea. We are making a mess everywhere we go in the world today, and the only viable answer is for us to leave other countries alone, and mind our own business. At some point we decided that we had to interfere in the world to get it the way we wanted it. We were wrong, and we need to admit it.

    • mike k
      March 10, 2018 at 16:48

      Trump had a good thought on this, but he has failed to follow through on it. Now it looks like he never will.

  20. jose
    March 10, 2018 at 13:41

    I believe that Trump is taking a step in the right direction if peace and disarmament were the primary objective. Last year, “Carter wrote that his more than 20 years’ worth of experience in dealing with the North taught him that what the country’s leadership wants more than anything is direct talks with the US that would lead to a permanent peace treaty.” According to David Swanson, there are at least 5 reasons to stop any war: war is immoral, endanger all of us, threatens our environment, erodes our liberties, and impoverishes us. Personally, I hope president Trump achieves a comprehensive peace treaty for war would be catastrophic for both Koreas. If he pulled it off, history will be kind to Trump.

  21. March 10, 2018 at 13:00

    Good news…I think a lot of credit should go to So. Korean President Moon Jae-in for taking the initiative to talk with Kim at the olympics. The Japanese should be relieved as they would be the most likely recipients of retaliation. The shame goes to Japanese P.M. Abe who has done nothing to relieve tensions and has only exasperated a domestic threat by continuing to support “peaceful” nuclear after the ongoing fallout from Fukushima.

    • jose
      March 10, 2018 at 13:48

      I concur with your post: South Korean leader is a pragmatic leader that knows that war could and should be averted. Those who criticize Trump just want war. But on the other hand, human stupidity has never ceased to amaze me so we shall see how this plays out. I wish Trump has the testicular fortitude to declare that he will achieve piece in the Korean peninsula for good no matter what. It will an awesome accomplishment.

      • Lois Gagnon
        March 10, 2018 at 14:44

        Someone needs to whisper in Trumps ear that he will be remembered as a great president if he helps the two Koreas to achieve peace.

      • March 10, 2018 at 14:57

        Jose: It seems we’re on the same page as far as Trump’s peace initiatives go. Of course, as one who detests his domestic agenda I wouldn’t concur with “Those who criticize Trump just want war.” but I’m assuming you are referring specifically to his peace initiatives and perhaps his general stand on foreign trade issues. Nevertheless, even if we disagree on other issues, at least we have our priorities in the right place because without peace the other issues become almost irrelevant.

  22. Lois Gagnon
    March 10, 2018 at 12:30

    Love Ted Rall’s very succinct analysis of why the US hates peace.


    • Joe Tedesky
      March 10, 2018 at 13:40

      Rall makes a great point that America’s Soft Diplomacy so far has been to lift N Koreas hopes to only leave the vilified North later with them needing to nurse their bruised reputation. Imagine this has been going on for nearly seventy years, and still no results.

      My own take on this Korean dilemma is that the U.S. Arms Industry is not done yet by profiting from this sad state of affairs. For the North and the South, that if these two nations divided by war can make a long lasting peace between them, then what awaits these two is the China OBOR project. So if all evolves compatibility as some continue to hope for, then in short time if a peace agreement is reached the two Koreans will benefit greatly by them being able to build quality infrastructure programs, as these two nations so wish to do.

      • David G
        March 10, 2018 at 14:10

        Fast freight rail between Busan and Saint Petersburg, with the U.S. Navy unable to do a thing about it – that’s what’s waiting once North and South Korea work free of the Yankee death grip.

        When the Japanese finally wise up, they can get hooked in as well, via new bridge/tunnel connections to Sakhalin. By which time the NYC Subway will be horse-drawn.

        • Joe Tedesky
          March 10, 2018 at 14:20

          These are the kind of projects America should be initiating around the globe, instead of all the time substituting peaceful initiatives with war.

      • Lois Gagnon
        March 10, 2018 at 14:40

        I’m sure the MIC will do all in its power to keep the gravy train moving along without interruption. It does appear as you indicate, the two Koreas are determined to reunite for the benefit of both. With China backing them, there’s not a whole lot the US war machine can do about it except continue to attempt to create chaos by any means. That tactic seems to be having less and less effect as the world is keenly aware that the #1 bully is in a weakened state.

        A multi-polar world is on the horizon whether Washington and Wall St. like it or not.

        • Joe Tedesky
          March 10, 2018 at 14:57

          I see this negotiating with N Korea by the U.S. as a sign of there being a change in the world’s power dynamics. The U.S. will never admit defeat by Russia’s announced new weapons program, but I see Kim’s reaching out as his offer to de-escalate could be reaffirmed by Russia having Kim’s back covered. I could be wrong, but if you connect the dots of all this that has come to be between then S Korea’s diplomacy with the North coupled with Putin’s weapons improvement being let known, then you may see this from the angle I’m talking about. Trump’s tweets of course played a role, but we should not leave out all these other goings on when doing our analysis.

          • Peter Loeb
            March 13, 2018 at 07:37

            WITH ALL DUE RESPECT….

            To the many commenters I admire so much….

            I don’t really believe that Donald J. Trump is planning
            on running for re-election in 2020 on a record of
            bringing Peace to the World. (Like Ike??)

            I think his “base” and indeed most America (even not
            Trump’s “base”) wants a secure well-paying job.
            I honestly doubt they will get it by any party.

            Promises yes. Jobs and money etc. No!

            The defense and banking industries will make out well
            but I doubt many out-of-work coal miners will qualify for
            their positions. And we all know that so well.

            One can reason by the politics of the parties. The
            real reasons are outside of politics and are enmeshed
            in national and global economics.

            The Democrats will fight like hell for the status quo and as
            Gabriel Kolko eloquently pointed out for the” Illusion of
            the New Deal” for which Democrats want to take credit (See Kolko’s
            article cited elsewhere in Counterpunch, 2012).

            If Trump does in fact reach any kind of agreement with North
            Korea, it will be ruined by his subsequent conditions and demands.

            What kind of pie in the sky are we all eating? And with such

            —-Peter Loeb, Boston, MA, USA

  23. Joe Tedesky
    March 10, 2018 at 11:02

    The way I see it that in order for Kim Jung un to suggest that he will give up his nukes if certain criteria is met, makes me all the more curious to how much Putin’s announcement on March 1st of Russia’s advancement of their weapons program coupled with his promise to protect Russia’s allies doesn’t hold sway over Kim’s proposal. I mean if Kim Jung un has Russia watching his back, then why would Kim need his own firepower. Also don’t forget for Kim the light at the end of the tunnel is China’s OBOR program, as this program could benefit the South of Korea as well.

    If Trump focuses on taking Kim Jung un up on this suggestion by Kim to disarm N Korea, then Trump would do well to sit back and politely listen to the N Korean leader. Trump has already won this negotiation through believe it or not with his bombastic tweets, or at least for now that’s the way Trump is being judged in the world of public opinion, so basically this strain between the North and the South is over.

    What bothers me most is the American MIC investments which have been poured into S Korea’s defensive position against the North for all these close to seventy years. I mean will the American Defense corporations just suddenly roll back their investments in this lifetime ongoing business of arming the South against the North of Korea?

  24. mike k
    March 10, 2018 at 10:39

    Trump ran on promises to bring our troops home from their far flung bases. Getting us out of Korea, where we have no business being, would be a big step in that direction. Unfortunately the Deep State actors would be totally opposed to such a move. Sane positions are hard to maintain in the face of their hegemonic insanity.

    • Martin - Swedish citizen
      March 11, 2018 at 18:17

      Yes, wouldn’t bringing US troops home from S Korea, including the nukes, be well in line with the agenda of candidate Trump? Let Korea and Japan assume responsibility for their own security? A win-win-win.
      True, there would be opposition from the “establishment “.

  25. mike k
    March 10, 2018 at 10:33

    We are allowed to hope – just don’t bet the farm on it.

  26. March 10, 2018 at 09:42

    Trump doesn’t call the shots – his Generals and the Ozs behind the curtain does. And those guys are trying to buy time because they don’t know – what to do — especially after the Olympic gesture of No. Korea. The MIC/Pentagon have soooo much on their plate – they’re stalling some ventures – for others. It’s a Game to them.

    • March 11, 2018 at 12:01

      Sadly, his Generals and Ozs will continue their agenda for war and the money for war. Before they annihilate us all, how wonderful to see Koreans from north and south being respectful and polite to each other in an attempt to reunite.

  27. March 10, 2018 at 09:16

    ‘And liberal New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, while claiming that he is “all for negotiations,” focuses on his “fear” that Trump “has given North Korea what it has long craved: the respect and legitimacy that comes from the North Korean leader standing as an equal beside the American president.”’

    I can well understand his fears. Trump might actually make peace with North Korea and finally end the war. He might even allow South and North Korea to resume reunification talks. Unthinkable and unforgivable.

  28. March 10, 2018 at 09:09

    Politicians being politicians is an acceptable thing. But what is happening now has virtually shut down the process of making intelligent policy. It has become for the Democrats and our media if Trump proposes, we, the Democrats, the media and other important institutions and people oppose. It means nothing gets done, or worse things that do get done are harmful to us.

    Secondly, If someone who was more capable had taken the same positions on policies that Trump ran on, he would be resisted just as strongly as Trump is now. Views on school reform, immigration, right to life, détente with Russia, affirmative action as examples would be resisted as vociferously and vigorously as they are now, it’s just that the tactics would change. Trump just makes it easier.

  29. Michael Kenny
    March 10, 2018 at 09:07

    All this is very bad news for Vladimir Putin. Whatever comes out of Trump’s talks, the meeting will look like, and be depicted as, a US capitulation. Trump needs a war to validate his presidency. He has scrubbed China off his list, now he’s scrubbing North Korea. Next stop, probably, Iran, but at that point, he’s already fighting Putin.

  30. David G
    March 10, 2018 at 08:49

    Lying, crooked, racist ass though he be, Trump’s appeal as a candidate was not *entirely* down to appealing to the worst in people. His crude, scattershot gasbaggery all too frequently seemed troublingly sensible when contrasted with the monolithic (and belligerent) Beltway consensus we are supposed to take as reality.

    After the election, that interestingly subversive quality almost entirely disappeared, with Trump’s residual non-conformism restricted to generalized chaos and such charming eccentricities as a balanced view of the KKK.

    But in recent days candidate Trump seems to be reasserting himself, first with the tariffs (on which I am not taking a position), and now with Korea (which I think is great).

    The fact is that the door to radically reducing the risk of military confrontation in Korea has been wide open since at least the 1990s. Bill Clinton began to get somewhere, but progress was undermined by the U.S. Congress, and then abandoned by Bush Jr., with Obama happily emulating the reviled Repub rather than the popular Dem.

    Now Trump, after wasting a year on stupid insults, seems to be on the verge of clumsily staggering through that open door.

    It’s always foolish to bank on Donald Trump – just ask the many creditors he has stiffed over the years. But I am glad to take the all-too-rare opportunity to celebrate some good news, while it lasts.

    Go, dotard, go!

  31. David G
    March 10, 2018 at 08:16

    Good piece by Jonathan Marshall – a reasonable look at several aspects of the situation. Thanks.

    A few specific reactions:


    “In recent months, experts have put the odds of a catastrophic war … at between 25 and 50 percent. … Sen. Lindsey Graham … said the likelihood of Trump launching a preemptive war will rise to 70 percent if North Korea conducts another nuclear test.”

    • As dispiriting as the recent hostile verbiage from Trump and Kim has been, I for one haven’t ever felt we were moving appreciably closer to war. However, if the terrifying Graham were in charge I might have to re-evaluate that position.


    “And liberal New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, while claiming that he is “all for negotiations,” focuses on his ‘fear’ that Trump ‘has given North Korea what it has long craved: the respect and legitimacy that comes from the North Korean leader standing as an equal beside the American president.'”

    • It must be galling to Kristof that the DPRK is too strong to get the benefit of the kind of “humanitarian” destruction he cheered on in Libya.


    “And persistent reports suggest that Trump’s national security adviser, H. R. McMaster, is on his way out—bad timing, if true.”

    • I don’t know where McMaster stands on Korea, but since he is fanatically anti-Iran – where I am much more concerned the U.S. & friends will start a war in the near term than Korea – I say good riddance, if true.


    “Realistic near-term goals include freezing further missile and warhead testing by North Korea …”

    • After its latest missile test, the DPRK said it considered its strategic deterrent as now being complete. Credible observers saw this as signaling a cessation of further provoking nuclear and missile tests. If that’s correct, and if the North’s negotiators are smart (and they definitely are), they should be able to get some concessions out of the U.S. in exchange for confirming a decision they have already de facto taken.


    “Whether the two men agree to eat hamburgers or kimchi …”

    • Kimchi burgers! We’ve got to look for the win-win.

    • Pamela
      March 10, 2018 at 11:03

      Kimchi burgers. Thank you, I needed a good laugh this morning.

    • March 10, 2018 at 13:23

      Oh, he should have the cold noodles. I had them once in Pyongyang…they are to die for.

    • Cosmic
      March 12, 2018 at 14:09

      Nickolas Kristof is an avowed neo-con warmonger.

  32. mike k
    March 10, 2018 at 08:11

    We don’t know what will come from talking with the North Korean Leader, but we do know that not talking is more dangerous than talking. Talking gives peace a chance.

    • mike k
      March 10, 2018 at 08:15

      My concern is that Trump has too much invested in his image as the great deal maker, and will be too demanding of a totally lopsided deal from Kim, which he will not get. In that case he could become violent, and feel justified in starting a shooting war.

      • David G
        March 10, 2018 at 09:13

        I can’t say that’s not a valid concern, mike k. But two things:

        First, I wouldn’t lose too much sleep over what might go down at a face-to-face Trump/Kim summit, which I’d say is still more likely to not take place.

        And wherever this leads, I credit the highly proficient DPRK negotiators with being able to suss out what Trump needs both politically and psychologically so as to make the most of whatever opportunity for progress exists.

        • elmerfudzie
          March 12, 2018 at 19:04

          David G, (this is a re-post, first time failed) On a more serious note and aside from the dotard chuckle: While surfing the many Hiroshima bombing websites, I stumbled on a 1945 picture of a little Japanese girl who’s eyes were completely burned out-(from atomic flash), they resembled charcoal cinders. The photo really Hit Me Hard and the immediate reaction was, yes, first strike!! their children instead of ours! After sleeping on it, the next morning, emotional reaction gave way to the thought, NO CHILDREN, ANYWHERE should suffer this horror ! Our POTUS must now do all that is within his power to, bribe, ingratiate, woo, even swindle, Un, and if necessary intimidate him into dismantling or surrendering that nuclear weapons stockpile. During the last days of the Nixon administration, he (Nixon) was hitting the bottle pretty hard, walking around the WH in the nude. Now the archives reveal that Kissinger (HK) made secret agreements with pentagon top brass, that in light of these lapses in clear judgement (putting it tactfully) to dismiss any attack orders by Nixon. My point is, unfortunately, Un loves to guzzle Hennessy cognac and does not have an HK figure (that I’m aware of anyway) with authority to intervene or countermand a drunken command to attack Seoul. It wouldn’t take much provocation, such as the disappearance or sinking of a few fishing vessels for an outburst of “fire and fury” from the mouth of that, food and drink debauched, Supreme Leader ! Does Un hand over the car keys to his generals (nuclear codes) before he hits the bar? Nobody really knows and it only raises the urgency of the matter…

    • Sam F
      March 10, 2018 at 19:30

      Yes, talking is the correct path, and likely they cannot blow up in person, nor later if congenial in person. Plus talks with NK may be a necessary prelude to talks with Russia. The Trump growling may silence the right wing and lead to peace after all. Maybe another growl at Russia before talks.

  33. Larry Gates
    March 10, 2018 at 08:10

    It is rare but occasionally Trump does the right thing, and agreeing to talk with Kim Jong Un is a step in the right direction. Let’s hope he tells Nikki Haley to shut her damn mouth while the talks are going on, And let’s hope that he treats Kim Jong Un with respect and has awareness that the North Korean leader.is simply trying to prevent his country from being devastated like it was in the early 50s. Probably won’t happen, but it could be like Nixon going to China or Reagan ending the cold war. Too much to hope for, I suppose.
    Actually, it would be easy to get North Korea to disarm. Just pull the American troops out of Korea, promise not to invade, and allow North and South Korea to continue their peace talks. Unfortunately, I can’t imagine Trump or even a Democrat doing that.

    • journey80
      March 10, 2018 at 09:46

      Especially not a Democrat. The notion that the Democrats are at all interested in peace anywhere on the planet has been discredited so many times it would be comical if it were not so suicidal. We need a second party. The two halves of the war party, slaves to the war industry, are well on the way to destroying the world we and our children will live in.

    • Bill
      March 11, 2018 at 13:14

      I would be quite surprised if Trumpkin actually ends up in a room with Kim Jong Un

    • Putin Apologist
      March 11, 2018 at 14:48

      I don’t see the analogousness of “Nixon going to China”. Nixon went to China in an attempt to drive a wedge between the two communist behemoths, to advantage America. Peace between the Korean states could lead a request for America’s departure from the Korean Peninsula, from the entire region, and this is certainly not what the hegemonic empire is seeking to accomplish.

      And please enlighten us as to how “Reagan ended the cold war”.

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