The ICAS Lectures


The Trump-Kim Summit: A Road Map to the Tête-à-Tête

Dong Bok Lee & Suk Woo Kim

ICAS Spring Symposium Special

April 30, 2018 Monday 1:00 pm - 5:00 pm
US Senate Dirksen Office Building Room SD 562
First Street NE and Constitution Ave
Washington, DC 20002

Institute for Corean-American Studies, Inc.

Biographic sketch & Links: Dong Bok Lee

Biographic sketch & Links: Suk Woo Kim

A Road Map to A Tête-à-Tête at the Summit between the U.S. and North Korea

Talking Points while in Washington, DC

Dong Bok Lee and Suk Woo Kim
April 23-May 7, 2018


Washington must realize that selection of the venue for the projected tête-à-tête between President Donald J. Trump of the United States (POTUS) and North Korea's tyrant Kim Jong Un (KJU) can turn out to be a very sticky issue while the two sides are in runup to the consummation of the summitry. It is all too likely that KJU's North Korean surrogates will insist on demanding that Pyongyang be the venue for the summit, certainly with the intention of portraying the POTUS' visit to Pyongyang as a 'pilgrimage' by the “Vanquished,” as a means to drum up his idolatry to a new high in an effort to overcome, or at least alleviate, the worsening political and economic difficulties that confront him caused by the ever tightening noose of international sanctions of late.

There is a referential reminder in this context: Back in 1972 on the eve of President Richard Nixon's trip to Beijing, KJU's grandfather, Kim Il Sung, took advantage of a mass rally held in Pyongyang in honor of Prince Norodom Sihanouk of Cambodia then in exile in North Korea as an opportunity to liken Nixon's trip to the "Humiliation at Canossa" by declaring that, branding him as a "setting sun," Nixon was "crawling his way to Beijing as the Vanquished, holding a white flag in his hand."

In case Pyongyang is accepted by Washington as the venue, KJU is likely to maximize its propaganda effect largely for North Korea's population by indulging in such acts of grandstanding as the release of USS Pueblo, the U.S. navy spy ship captured in 1968, and held thereafter, by North Korea as well as the few American detainees, as "gift items to the POTUS," describing it as "the Great Leader's magnanimous benevolent act of vouchsafing toward Trump the Vanquished."

In choosing the venue, Washington has the absolute need to be mindful about the kind of megalomania that prevails in North Korea built up around KJU's cult of personality and, henceforth, to ensure that North Korea be barred from taking advantage of the venue as a propaganda bonanza. Washington can take a lesson from the sense of pragmatic rationality that West Germany under Chancellor Billy Brandt displayed back in 1970 when it chose Erfurt and Kassel, the two non-descript border towns of East and West Germany, respectively, as the venues of the first round of inter-German summit talks, as a means to deny the East Germans a chance to manipulate the talks for propaganda gains.


In "How Communists Negotiate" (The Macmillan Company, New York, 1955), a memoir that he published based on his own experiences from the Korean War Armistice Conference where he had headed the United Nations Command (UNC) delegation between 1951 and 1952, Admiral C. Turner Joy (US Navy, ret.) has left a plurality of counsels, and warnings, for his posterity.

Included among them is a warning that, in setting the agenda, the North Korean Communists would seek an agenda composed of conclusions favorable to their basic objectives, while the Western side would talk about a list of topics to be discussed, leaving agreed conclusions to be discussed later. For example:

The Western side meeting to discuss arrangements for a baseball game would suggest an agenda as follows:

  1. Place where the game is to be played.
  2. Time when the game is to start.
  3. Selection of umpires.
(North Korean) Communists, however, would suggest the following:
  1. Agreement that the game shall be played in Shanghai.
  2. Agreement that the game shall be played at night.
  3. Agreement that the umpires shall be Chinese officials.

When viewed in the context of Admiral Joy's warning, it was a critical mistake that Christopher Hills made at the outset of the Beijing Six-party Talks in 2004 when he accepted the phraseology of "Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula" as suggested by his North Korean counterpart, Kye-kwan Kim, as the agenda of the talks - a critical mistake having resulted from his ignorance of North Korean Communists, according to Adm. Joy. Hills should have specified the agenda as "North Korea's Nuclear Arms Program."

We do not know what is the kind of phraseology that Washington has in mind to fix the agenda of the POTUS' tete-a-tete with KJU. However, We are pretty much sure that the U.S. will insist that the agenda of the tete-a-tete be fixed based on the U.S. position that, with the concept of a CVID set aside as an unchallengeable proposition, the discussions at the tete-a-tete be confined to reaching an agreement on how that unchallengeable proposition should be implemented.

We do not know if there is any precursor contact between Washington and Pyongyang taking place to discuss such matters as the venue and the date(s) for the projected tete-a-tete, much less its agenda.

It is frankly confusing to tell which is right between the two allegations: On the one hand, the White House spokesperson was on the record to say that, "since we have not heard anything directly from North Korea, we are proceeding with our preparations based on what we hear our ally, which is South Korea, say that it had heard from Pyongyang. On the other hand, the POTUS himself was on the record as well to tell his own cabinet that "we have been in touch with North Korea," adding, "hopefully, we will be able to make a deal on the de-nuking of North Korea because they've said so and we've said so."

Assuming that there are, or already were, precursor contacts between Washington and Pyongyang at the working level, we dare foresee, based on our own years of engagement with the other side of Korea in the name of a "dialogue," almost unbridgeable differences should emerge, or have already emerged, between the two sides making it next to impossible for them to fix an agenda, while fixing the venue would also pose, or have already posed, as a very difficult task to be accomplished.

Hypothetically assuming that the venue issue has somehow been fixed, we can imagine the POTUS speaking to his adversary on the other side of the table at the tete-a-tete on one day in May on the basis of an agenda vaguely phrased as 1) the question of denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and 2) other ancillary questions.

Under this setting, we can conjecture the POTUS, opening his salvo by asking that, having allegedly pledged his "commitment to denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula," KJU explain how he would implement his pledge, on condition that the implementation would be strictly in the context of a CVID (complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement) of North Korea's nuclear arms program in its entirety.

We think it certain that KJU would counter the POTUS' opening salvo as such with his own salvo, which would be as follows:

KJU would tell the POTUS that "denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula" is by no means as simple as the POTUS says it is.

In the first place, KJU would say that North Korea's development of nuclear warheads and their delivery means, ICBMs, was an "act of self-defense" caused by a policy of hostility against North Korea pursued for so many years by the U.S. in alliance with South Korea certainly inclusive of threats of nuclear attack from the U.S. in the context of what is called a "nuclear umbrella," in addition to U.S.-South Korea joint military exercises complete with nuclear implications as well. KJU would insist, therefore, that any discussion on North Korea's nuclear and missile programs must be preceded by discussions on the U.S. policies antagonizing North Korea with implications of nuclear threats.

KJU would tell the POTUS that, while his pledge to denuclearization was a "commitment willed" by his grandfather, Kim Il Sung, and father, Kim Jong Il, he was also "willed" by them to secure a "guarantee" from the U.S. that North Korea's "security" be insured and that military threats against the North from outside be "removed" as a precondition to “denuclearization.” KJU will toss up the concept of a CVIG (complete, verifiable and irreversible guarantee) as an issue for consideration ahead of the issue of North Korea's denuclearization itself.

In the second place, KJU would argue that, now that North Korea has a fully weaponized nuclear arsenal in its own possession, thus having acquired the status of a member of the world's "nuclear club," allegedly on a par with the other eight club members, discussions on the North Korean nuclear arms must take place within the framework of "international nuclear arms reduction talks."

In the third place, KJU would insist that the wording of "denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula" be interpreted not as "denuclearization of North Korea" but as a "nuclear free zone (NFZ) over and around the Korean Peninsula" and thus lay the mat to give the top priority to the consideration of Pyongyang's demand that discussions on the North Korean nuclear issue proceed either contemporaneously with discussions on the U.S. nuclear policy toward the Korean Peninsula or following discussions on the U.S. nuclear policy.

The dialogue between the POTUS and KJU would then quickly turn into an unwinnable and meaningless tit-for-tat where the POTUS will have to leave himself at the mercy of KJU displaying his prowess in propaganda and agitation gamesmanship, without ever being able to zero in on the heart of the matter, "denuclearization of North Korea."



Prior to moving to the tete-a-tete with KJU, the POTUS should direct his national security staffs to engage North Korea in a precursor round of contacts to make sure the following as a precondition to consummation of the projected tete-a-tete:

  1. The issue of venue be settled in favor of a third country, such as Sweden and/or Switzerland where KJU spent some years as a middle school kid, in order to make sure that North Korea be completely deprived of any opportunity to manipulate it for its propaganda purposes.
  2. The issue of agenda be settled in such a way that North Korea can hardly extricate itself from its obligation to its alleged "commitment to denuclearization" of the Korean Peninsula, and that strictly in the context of "denuclearization of North Korea."
  3. Make sure that all the rest of issues pertaining to the Korean Peninsula, such as a "peace treaty," "U.S. troop presence in the Republic of Korea," "ROK-U.S. security alliance," "ROK-U.S. joint military exercises" and "sanctions against North Korea" or what not, be put on hold pending the resolution of the central issue of "North Korea's denuclearization" complete with implementation of North Korea's stated commitment'.

Be fully prepared for the ultimate collapse of the current process of summitries as a means to North Korea's denuclearization, which is looking increasingly like a done deal. For all practical reasons, it looks unquestionably certain that a dialogue will by no means open the road to North Korea's denuclearization so long as North Korea is in the grip of the House of Kim Family.

Collapse of the current attempt for a negotiated settlement of the North Korean nuclear issue is definitely likely to leave the U.S. with no options other than a military one, prompted by North Korea's failure to accept the U.S. terms that feature a CVID of North Korea's entire nuclear and ICBM capabilities. In case the U.S. is finally driven to a military option, the U.S. should not ever consider resorting to any of the half-measures, such as a "surgical strikes" and/or "nose bleeding," because doing so would definitely invite havocs to the U.S. and her allies.

We are convinced that the U.S. military option, when executed, will have to be of overarching full-scale measures that will totally deny North Korea any residual military capability, certainly not excluding chemical warfare agents, to mount retaliatory attacks against not only the Republic of Korea, Japan and Guam but also the Continental U.S., be it small or large in scale, once the full-scale U.S. military action, be it conventional or nuclear, is set in motion against North Korea.

From the standpoint of management of security alliances elsewhere, the U.S. has the absolute need to make sure that, in case of such a massive military operation against North Korea, collateral damages to South Korea be minimized, if not totally denied. We are only curious about whether the U.S. currently possesses such a lethal military power enough to obliterate North Korea's military capability in one massive blow, while leaving South Korea unaffected by collateral damages, in person as well as in property, caused by such a massive military operation.

The legal aspect of such a military operation, executed in the context of a preemptive attack, remains a subject of scrutiny. However, we think that we must read carefully the letters of Article 51 of the United Nations Charter that reads: "Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security."

We are living in a nuclear age, in a complete departure from the days before the end of the Second World War when conventional arms held sway, and KJU's North Korea is now bragging about hydrogen bomb-tipped ICBMs, allegedly covering Continental U.S. in its entirety within their ranges, already in its possession with the international community not disputing claim as such and, at the same time, making no bones about its intention to shell Washington with these lethal weapons at the touch of a button by Great Leader KJU. Would it not suffice then to say that the U.S. has a perfect legal case, under Article 51 of the UN Charter, to resort to a "preemptive" military operation against North Korea to as a means to prevent herself from suffering a nuclear holocaust?

Remarks by Suk-woo Kim, former Vice-minister of National Unification on April 30, 2018 (Draft)

On April 27, Moon Jae-in of South Korea and Kim Jong-un of North Korea held a summit at Panmunjom. In my view, the meeting was nothing but a grand show with so many hidden tricks and pitfalls behind the scene. The silent majority of South Koreans are worried about the process used for producing the joint declaration, as well as what may follow from this point on.

The two leaders have orchestrated the show to present a fake peace offensive, when the North Korea was cornered into a very serious crisis caused by stringent international sanctions.

Whenever the North Korean regime fell into a serious crisis, they launched a peace offensive towards the South. In December 1991, two agreements were made between the two Koreas. One was the Basic agreement on reconciliation, non-aggression, exchanges and cooperation between the two parties on the peninsula, the other was the joint declaration on the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. No sooner than the ink on the agreements dried, the North violated the essential promises of the agreement. North Korea reinforced its clandestine effort to develop nuclear weapons.

As such, the North repeatedly broke its promises. That is why we cannot trust them. Only fools and pro-North Korea sympathizers are ready to swallow yet another promise. This time, they made an agreement at Panmunjom under the slogan of peace, prosperity and unification of the peninsula. This is nothing but their attempt to deviate from the international sanctions against North Korea.

We should confirm whether Kim Jong-un’s intention is honest or not. The core element of the question at this juncture is whether North Korea is going to give up its nuclear arsenal together with missiles. As of now, we don’t know if they are trying to evade the issue, or gain time to complete their nuclear development program.

At Panmunjom, the two leaders slightly touched on the denuclearization of the peninsula in the last part of the declaration. It was nowhere closed to the CVID of the North Korean nuclear weapons. Instead, they focused on the rhetoric about ending the Korean War and bilateral cooperation between the two parties. They reversed the priority of the issues to solve the present stalemate caused by North Korea’s nuclear tests and missile launches.

Thus, the denuclearization ball was thrown into President Trump’s court. If the Trump-Kim summit could not solve the problem, then they will blame Trump as an obstacle to peace and prosperity for the whole Korean nation. It will exacerbate the anti-America movement on the Korean peninsula, which sprang up during the Kim Dae-jung era around year 2000. Anti-America movement has trodden the line of Kim Dae-Jung – Roh Mu-hyun – Moon Jae-In, and is permeated everywhere in Korean society.

We have to keep our eye on the engineers of the so-called peace offensive on the peninsula. South Korea’s Presidential Chief of staff and more than a dozen core staff members have been pro-North Korea activists as students during the 1980s. They have pledged their allegiance to North Korea, chanting praises for Great Leader Kim Il-Sung and Great Comrade Kim Jong-Il. There is no evidence that they have ever converted themselves and terminated their pro-Kim thoughts. I feel that they are closer to the North than to their own country, South Korea. It seems to me that these pro-North group have collaborated with the North to rescue the Kim Jong-un regime under the guise of promoting a peace offensive. They have consistently turned their blind eye to the serious abuse of North Korean human rights. It’s a shame.

The United States should not be trapped by this deception disguised as peace offensive. Ordinary Americans hardly understand the present situation in Korea. Korea’s silent majority fear that they are facing the most serious crisis in 70 years. They fear that they may lose all the glorious achievements they have made with the help of American freedom fighters.

This page last updated May 3, 2018 jdb