Events Are Cascading Towards a Summit With North Korea On Schedule

In this Wednesday, May 9, 2018, photo provided on Thursday, May 10, 2018, by the North Korean government, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, left, poses with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un for a photo during a meeting at the Workers’ Party of Korea headquarters in Pyongyang, North Korea. Independent journalists were not given access to cover the event depicted in this image distributed by the North Korean government. The content of this image is as provided and cannot be independently verified. Korean language watermark on image as provided by source reads: “KCNA” which is the abbreviation for Korean Central News Agency. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

There has been a lot of movement on the North Korea negotiations front this weekend.

While the media have been focused on a Trump tweet in which he seemingly disavows one of his own senior National Security Council staffers

I have no intention of arguing about this, but the NY Times took an inference they drew from the actual quote and attributed it to the staffer. This is the quote:

and this is the story:

I don’t think these are remotely the same thing but YMMV. But, if Trump believes the summit can be pulled off it would make sense that he’d be perturbed to see one on his staff saying it couldn’t happen.

Anyway, US negotiators stayed in contact with their North Korea counterparts.

South Korea’s Moon and North Korea’s Kim met on the DMZ yesterday with no advance announcement.

And from that talk:

A high ranking North Korean envoy has been spotted in Beijing.

There are rumors that a second face to face meeting before the June 12 meeting date. This rumor is based on a announcement (which I can’t find now) that rail traffic on the route from Beijing to North Korea has been cancelled for a block of days. This is how the last trip was handled.

And the breaking story this morning is that US negotiators have crossed into North Korea.

A team of U.S. officials crossed into North Korea on Sunday for talks to prepare for a summit between President Trump and Kim Jong Un, as both sides press ahead with arrangements despite the question marks hanging over the meeting.

Sung Kim, a former U.S. ambassador to South Korea and former nuclear negotiator with the North, has been called in from his posting as envoy to the Philippines to lead the preparations, according to a person familiar with the arrangements.

He crossed the line that separates the two Koreas to meet with Choe Son Hui, the North Korean vice foreign minister, who said last week that Pyongyang was “reconsidering” the talks. Kim and Choe know each other well — both were part of the delegations that negotiated the 2005 denuclearization agreement through the six-party framework.

Kim is also joined by Allison Hooker, the Korea specialist on the National Security Council, and an official from the Defense Department. Randall Schriver, the assistant secretary of defense for East Asia and one of the officials who accompanied Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Pyongyang earlier this month, also is in Seoul at the moment. It could not be immediately confirmed whether he was the Pentagon official involved in the preparatory talks.

The meetings are expected to continue Monday and Tuesday.

1. Kim wants this summit and so, too, does China. Kim doesn’t do impromptu meetings with Moon for no reason.
2. Complete denuclearization has been used in the past as a code phrase for the US to forswear use on nukes to defend South Korea.
3. Odds are good that the summit takes place either on schedule or shortly thereafter.
4. If the summit does happen then Trump has to walk away with something significant. What would that be? It is hard to imagine Kim giving up his nukes but it is hard to see how this meeting takes place if there isn’t some move in that direction.