President Donald Trump signaled that he may be ready to take his North Korean strategy to the next stage on Tuesday as he spoke to reporters from Seoul. Rather than the usual uncompromising tone he has used with Pyongyang in the past – rhetoric that has included a promise to unleash “fire and fury” on the dictatorship – Trump hinted that he might be willing to strike a bargain with Kim Jong Un after all. Perhaps getting early indications that the most recent round of harsh economic sanctions are doing the trick, Trump said that if Pyongyang could see their way clear to giving up their nuclear weapons program, the U.S. was willing to work with them.
“It makes sense for North Korea to come to the table and make a deal that is good for the people of North Korea and for the world,” Trump said at a press conference with South Korean president Moon Jae-in. “I do see certain movement.”
At the press conference, Trump sounded pleased with the progress he’d seen in recent weeks with North Korea, though he did make it clear that the U.S. was not taking the military option off the table. He pointedly mentioned the three aircraft carrier groups in the region as well as a U.S. nuclear submarine lurking off the coast. “We hope to God we never have to use them,” he said.
Whether on his own accord or simply due to the setting, Trump put aside some of the more aggressive language he’s been using in reference to North Korea. Gone, too, were the disparaging remarks he has made in the past about diplomacy between the U.S. and the Kim Jong Un regime. He did, however, indicate that one of the central thrusts of his Asian tour would be to make sure all nations in the region were aligned on the same page when it came to North Korea and the end of their nuclear weapons development.
“I know that you have put this issue at the top of your security agenda,” said President Moon. “So I hope that your visit to Korea and to the Asia Pacific region will serve as an opportunity to relieve some of the anxiety that the Korean people have due to North Korea’s provocations and also serve as a turning point in resolving the North Korean nuclear issue.”
Recent sanctions put in place by both the U.S. and the United Nations have undoubtedly shaken Kim Jong Un’s confidence, but much will – as always – depend on China’s willingness to enforce the economic embargo. If they bring the hammer down, Kim will have only two choices: Submit to the will of the international community…or go down in a blaze of hellfire.
Hopefully, he’s not as crazy as he seems.