- Kim Jong Un, who is believed to be no older than 35, could rule over North Korea for the next 50 years.
- This gives him a massive advantage over President Donald Trump, who has at most eight years in office, and means Kim can play the long game.
- But rather than burn Trump and the US on a bad deal for short-term benefits, Kim may actually look to embrace the US to balance against China.
- China is already a massive power in Asia and set to overtake the US as the world’s biggest power.
- Kim has given signs that he wants to resist Beijing’s influence – and the US can help him there.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un holds a massive advantage over President Donald Trump heading into their historic summit planned for Tuesday, and whom he plays it against could shape the fate of the region for decades to come.
Kim is believed to be no older than 35. The Kim dynasty has held power for about 70 years in North Korea, with leaders serving until their deaths.
Kim’s massive advantage over Trump, and even China, is that he could lead his country for another half a century. Trump, 71, is at the mercy of a US system that limits him to eight years in power at most.
Even Chinese President Xi Jinping, who abolished term limits to potentially extend his rule indefinitely, is 64 with no apparent successor.
As Trump himself has acknowledged, making an agreement with Kim could be easy. Even if North Korea is disingenuous and has no intention of getting rid of its nuclear arms, Kim could most likely get a deal with Trump to slowly remove the weapons and just wait out the clock until Trump leaves office.
But does Kim simply want to play Trump for sanctions relief? Or can the young leader outfox his older counterparts by playing the long game?
Many estimate that China, with its 1.4 billion citizens, will surpass the US in global dominance within Kim’s lifetime. If Kim just wants to slam Trump with a raw deal and reap short-term benefits, he has a good opportunity to do so now.
A bad deal for the US, one that hastens or brings about the withdrawal of US troops from South Korea, would most likely accelerate the loss of US influence in the world’s most populous region, thereby hastening the decline of the US as the world’s superpower.
But that would also accelerate China’s rise and upset the delicate balance Kim has struck between the US and China. Under Kim, Pyongyang has tried to distance itself from China and establish its independence.
“North Korea has no reason to believe that the US would be willing or able to defend it from China,” Hugh White, an Australian defence strategist, told The New York Times. “Who in Pyongyang would believe that America could fight and win a land war against China on China’s borders?”
On Monday, Pyongyang’s state-run newspaper, one of the few outlets North Koreans can freely read, appeared to be laying the groundwork for a new, normalized relationship with the US.
The Korean dream
Korea is in many ways beholden to its geography. A peninsula caught between Russia, Japan, and China, Korea has spent its history fending off foreign powers.
The great vision of North Korea’s Kim dynasty has always been an independent Korea that determines its own destiny without being steered by foreigners.
For that reason, Kim may seek to somewhat embrace the US as part of a delicate balancing act.
More on the Trump-Kim Summit:
- Who will be in the room when Trump meets Kim Jong Un
- Kim Jong Un has a massive advantage over Trump in the talks – but he could turn it against China
- We asked South Koreans what they think will come out of the Trump-Kim summit, and they were surprisingly optimistic
- Opinion: 6 critical questions we need to ask about the Trump-Kim summit before calling it a success or failure
- Kim Jong Un’s high school teacher says the North Korean leader probably knows English and just pretends not to
- Trump and Kim Jong Un are staying in hotels less than a half-mile apart, and this map shows how they’re basically neighbours
- Kim Jong Un’s internet-famous bodyguards have been seen jogging in formation around his car in Singapore – here’s everything we know about them
- Analysis: Trump is pushing for North Korea’s denuclearization, but Kim has his own agenda
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