Kim Jong Un appears to have totally caved to Trump’s pressure — but it could be a trap

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (C). STR/AFP/Getty Images
  • South Korea says North Korea appeared to make huge concessions to advance potential talks with the US.
  • It’s possible Kim Jong Un caved in to President Donald Trump’s pressure campaign, but it’s also possible the move is a trick.
  • North Korea has entered into denuclearization talks with the US before, only to back out and cash in on warmed relations during the talks.

South Korea’s president’s office reported on Tuesday that North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, said he was willing to talk to the US about dismantling his country’s nuclear program in what looks like a huge concession to mounting international pressure.

Specifically, the Blue House, South Korea’s version of the White House, laid out five specific points North Korea agreed to.

  1. South Korea and North Korea will meet again in the truce village between the two countries in April.
  2. Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae In will establish a hotline to deescalate tensions and discuss issues of mutual interest.
  3. North Korea is willing to denuclearize, and to hold candid talks with the US over the issue of nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula, as long as its security can be guaranteed, and that the Kim regime doesn’t have to fear a US invasion.
  4. North Korea will not conduct missile or nuclear tests while it engages in diplomatic talks with the US. South Korea says Kim Jong Un offered this up unilaterally, and did not ask the US and South Korea to suspend their military drills which are slated for April.
  5. North Korea has no intention of using weapons, nuclear or otherwise, against South Korea.

Taken together and at face value, these statements may indicate that Kim has had a change of heart, and is now expressing an interest to disarm, disavow violence, and trust that the US won’t attack when he makes moves towards disarmament.

But North Korea traffics in propaganda and has furiously opposed the US for decades. It’s unwise to take North Korea at its word, and in responding to the news, President Donald Trump didn’t seem to buy it.

“May be false hope,” Trump tweeted of the news, “but the U.S. is ready to go hard in either direction!”

Trump’s scepticism over North Korea’s apparent eagerness to move towards peace may be well placed, considering how North Korea previously backed out of denuclearizing during talks with George W. Bush’s administration.

With greater international pressure and tighter sanctions than ever hurting North Korea’s economy, Yun Sun, a North Korea expert at the Stimson Center, told Business Insider that Kim Jong Un “could be buying time” by proposing talks with the US.

North Korea may look to discuss denuclearization in exchange for some sanctions relief to refill its coffers during a time of economic distress, and then simply slam the door on talks and return to its nuclear program as it has done in the past, according to Sun.

But the failures of diplomacy in North Korea and the US’s past came under different circumstances. No head of state has ever met with Kim Jong Un. Kim Jong Un has never attempted diplomacy with the US in this way, and never discussed denuclearization in this context.

Only time will tell if Tuesday’s meeting was a historic diplomatic breakthrough, or another trick that could backfire and bring the US closer to war with Pyongyang.