We’re sitting at a long polished wooden table decorated down the middle by small bouquets of flowers dividing Chairman Kim Jong Un and his staff from me and mine. I sense my brilliance and boldness will soon be needed. Eleven presidents who preceded me had sixty-five years to bring real peace to the Korean Peninsula but they lacked vision and toughness. Thankfully, I’ve got balls and think my friendly counterpart Kim does, too.
This afternoon I’ve already been patient at least twenty minutes, feeling him out, before I drop the hammer.
“Let’s go all in, Chairman Kim. Let’s make this the greatest summit ever.”
“That’s why I’m here, President Trump. We simply ask that you remove sanctions so we can breathe as we destroy all our nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.”
“We want to remove sanctions and help your country become an economic giant.”
“Then please proceed.”
“Chairman Kim,” I say, “we can’t give you what you want without getting something big in return.”
“I’m offering you the greatest concession possible: I’m ready to dismantle the Yongbyon nuclear facility, by far our largest.”
I cross my arms and examine Kim’s face, which is even fatter than in Singapore, and say, “Yongbyon’s gotta go, sure, but so do plenty of other places. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will read part of our list, your list, really.”
Mike, who may be heftier than Kim, and both are definitely fatter than I am, names this place and that and other dangerous weapons facilities in North Korea. Kim tries to stay cool but I know he’s thinking, “Shit, how’d they find out about all those?”
“Chairman Kim,” I say, “there really isn’t anything in your country we don’t know about.”
Kim locks his hands into one big fist on the table and says, “We’re not asking you to remove sanctions against weapons, President Trump. Our offer is really quite generous. Furthermore, I’m prepared, right now, to sign a promise to forever halt our bomb and missile tests.”
“You haven’t been testing bombs and missiles, and I’m confident you won’t. Please don’t. What you’re really offering is an aging facility you don’t need to keep expanding your nuclear weapons programs. You probably read our press more than I do. I’m not accusing you of building more bombs and missiles but our intelligence agencies say you are.”
Even during battle I love the two little honeys doing our translating.
“We aren’t expanding our nuclear programs. We can hit the United States. That’s all we need. Why would we do more?”
“I believe you, Chairman Kim. And I believe President Putin, who’s told me the same. But for domestic political reasons I’ve got to at least consider what my experts are telling me. Your country has a bad record in keeping its promises.”
Kim unlinks his hands, making two small fat fists on the table. “And the United States just walked out of a good nuclear deal with Iran and is looking for a pretext to strike there just as it manufactured lies before attacking Iraq in 2003.”
“Listen, Chairman Kim, despite what my opponents say, I was against attacking Iraq, and in Iran I was just getting out of the worst deal in history. We’re not going to attack Iran.”
“Russia, China, England, France, Germany, and others still think it’s a good deal and are adhering to its terms, and so is Iran.”
“We’re here to talk about North Korea,” I remind him.
“I’ll demolish Yongbyon.”
“That’s not enough for sanctions relief.”
“We can’t do everything today, President Trump. But we should be able to declare an end to a war that in fact ended in 1953. I hope you appreciate how difficult it is for me to offer to freeze our missiles and nuclear weapons.”
“Frozen’s okay but you’ll need to go much further. We’re here to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula and help your country move into the twenty-first century.”
“We’ll progress much more rapidly once the United States withdraws its troops from South Korea.”
Sometimes I wish I was just a real estate tycoon and reality TV star.
“Chairman Kim, I’m cancelling our working lunch and signing ceremony because we have nothing to sign.”
Kim and I stand, and I walk around the shiny long table to shake his hand.
“We’ll talk again,” I say.
“Maybe our staffs should move this along more slowly, step by step, then we’ll actually have something to talk about.”
“You’re right, President Trump, let’s proceed cautiously.”