Gathered around Kim Jong-un is his wife Ri Sol-ju and Kim’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, fresh from a diplomatic mission at the South Korean Olympics. Partially due to domestic political conditions, South Korean President Moon Jae-in sent his top spy, Suh Hoon, and South Korea’s H.R. McMaster, Chung Eui-yong. Moon, as a new president from the Korean left, is especially sensitive to appearing weak as he pursues his preference for negotiations and calmer relations with the North.
|North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (center right) sits with a visiting South Korean |
delegation in Pyongyang and other high-level North Koreans, March 5, 2018 | KCNA
Clearly, North Korea has decided on a meeting and negotiation track. His invitation to President Trump is bold. His immediate goal is sanction relief, and he believes appearing reasonable will help. There have been long periods of negotiations before. The likelihood he will give up his nuclear weapons for “security guarantees” still seems implausible.
But, it’s his (and his family’s) long-term goal that is a deal killer – U.S. gone from the peninsula and the Koreas united under his direct rule, or at least like the Russian theory of the Ukraine – within his share of influence. Would China prefer that outcome too?