Sum­mit a rar­ity: De­tails not ham­mered out be­fore­hand

Trump team sees value in up­end­ing usual model

USA TODAY Weekend Extra - - NEWS - David Jack­son

WASH­ING­TON – Pres­i­dent Trump and Kim Jong Un are prep­ping for a sum­mit with the usual or­der of op­er­a­tions re­versed: First the lead­ers meet, then aides try to work out the hard de­tails of a com­plex agree­ment.

It’s one of many un­usual as­pects of a unique sum­mit that Trump an­nounced out of the blue in early March, can­celed in late May after North Korean crit­i­cism and then resched­uled June 1.

“We’re for­get­ting how weird all this is,” said Thomas Wright, a se­nior fel­low with the Wash­ing­ton-based Brook­ings In­sti­tu­tion.

Trump granted Kim the pres­tige of a ma­jor sum­mit with­out ex­tract­ing mean­ing­ful con­ces­sions re­gard­ing the elim­i­na­tion of North Korea’s nu­clear weapons, an­a­lysts said.

And while most sum­mits are tightly scripted in ad­vance, the Trump-Kim agenda re­mains in flux, they said. It could come to in­clude U.S. con­ces­sions on sanc­tions to­ward North Korea, the com­mit­ment of Amer­i­can troops to South Korea and the prospects of a peace treaty be­tween the two Koreas.

“They’re kind of cir­cum­vent­ing the usual diplo­matic model,” said Abi­gail Grace, re­search as­so­ciate with the Asi­aPa­cific Se­cu­rity Pro­gram at the Cen­ter for New Amer­i­can Se­cu­rity.

Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials are happy to say their ap­proach is un­usual.

It fits the for­mer busi­ness­man’s ne­go­ti­at­ing style, of­fi­cials said, and pre­vi­ous, more tra­di­tional diplo­matic ef­forts did not get the North Kore­ans to give up the pur­suit of nu­clear weapons.

“The ap­proach that Pres­i­dent Trump is tak­ing is fun­da­men­tally dif­fer­ent,” Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo said. “In the past, there have been months and months of de­tailed ne­go­ti­a­tions, and it got nowhere. This has al­ready driven us to a place we’ve not been able to achieve be­fore.”

Trump him­self said “one-week prepa­ra­tions” for a big event sim­ply “don’t work,” and his life ex­pe­ri­ence makes him ready to deal with North Korea.

“I’ve been pre­par­ing for this all my life,” Trump told re­porters Fri­day as he left for the G-7 sum­mit in Canada, en route to Sin­ga­pore for the Kim meet­ing Tues­day morn­ing.

Pom­peo noted that ne­go­tia­tors have been dis­cussing the meet­ing agenda for weeks at meet­ings in the De­mil­i­ta­rized Zone be­tween North and South Korea.

Hav­ing met with Kim twice, Pom­peo said that “he’s pre­pared to de­nu­cle­arize,” and the North Kore­ans have shown good faith by re­turn­ing U.S. hostages and de­stroy­ing a few weapons test sites.

An­a­lysts said North Korea hasn’t given up any­thing mean­ing­ful and has not pro­vided its own def­i­ni­tion of de­nu­cle­ariza­tion.

Ryan Hass, a for­eign pol­icy fel­low with the Brook­ings In­sti­tu­tion, said he thinks “the key ques­tion” will be, “How much pre­ci­sion are both lead­ers pre­pared to ap­ply to the as­pi­ra­tions?”

There have been hastily pre­pared sum­mits be­fore.

Less than five months after his 1961 in­au­gu­ra­tion, a less-than-pre­pared Pres­i­dent Kennedy trav­eled to Vi­enna to meet Nikita Khrushchev. The vet­eran So­viet leader rhetor­i­cally blud­geoned the young pres­i­dent, and the lead­ers failed to find com­mon ground.

Dur­ing a largely thrown-to­gether sum­mit in Ice­land in 1986, Pres­i­dent Rea­gan and So­viet leader Mikhail Gor­bachev sud­denly found them­selves dis­cussing the abo­li­tion of nu­clear weapons, to the hor­ror of some of their ad­vis­ers. That sum­mit fell apart when Gor­bachev de­manded the end to Rea­gan’s plan for a mis­sile de­fense sys­tem known as “Star Wars.”

In the months that fol­lowed, aides be­gan work on an arms con­trol treaty that Rea­gan and Gor­bachev signed at a more tra­di­tional sum­mit in 1987.

That’s the way it usu­ally works: Aides will spend months ne­go­ti­at­ing the de­tails and get­ting the doc­u­ments ready, and only then will the lead­ers call a sum­mit to sign doc­u­ments and pose for pho­tos.


Pres­i­dent Trump boards Air Force One on Satur­day in Canada. His next stop: Sin­ga­pore, to meet with the North Korean leader.

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