What North Korea Really Wants From Trump

Updated on April 25, 2018

When Trump and Kim Jong-un meet sometime early this summer, the big-picture aspirations of both parties will be clear. The U.S. and its regional allies will tone down their military pressure on the North and agree to formally end the Korean War. In exchange, the hermit kingdom will, at least, suspend the testing of its ICBM program

In broad strokes, Kim wants normalized relations between his one party-state and the Democratic west. He hopes to achieve a sense of civility that hasn't existed in the North since its founding. Up until now, neither Kim nor his predecessors have been willing to stop their development of nuclear weapons. While this has deterred military action against the regime, it has also put a massive strain on their economy (North Korea's GDP per capita is an abysmal $1,700 vs $39,400 for South Korea). But now, with demonstrated nuclear capability, Kim is in a position of strength. Whether he can use this to gain traction with Trump remains to be seen.

Economic Aspirations

Kim's biggest incentive to come to the table is his possession of a missile capable of hitting the homeland. The Hwasong-15, tested last November, is estimated to have a theoretical range of over 8,000 miles. This would put every major US city within reach. However, during testing, the missile broke apart reentering the atmosphere, making the effective range zero. But defense officials warn that with additional engineering, the missile would be a potent threat. Coupled with their successful miniaturization of the warhead, North Korea has cleared the last major hurdle in becoming a nuclear state.

But Kim doesn't necessarily want nuclear weapons so much as he wants the insurance they provide. After spending the better part of four decades on missiles, North Korea is predictably turning towards diplomacy. Kim's leveraging his new found military capabilities to fulfill his economic aspirations. While border countries have prevented a total collapse of the North Korean economy, Kim wants sustainability. He'll likely encourage Trump to lessen the sanctions that have crippled growth and prevented comprehensive foreign investment. In the process, he'll receive legitimacy from the international community.

If he can negotiate at least some economic concessions, they'd probably look similar to what Iran achieved with their 2015 nuclear deal: a broad embargo relief, but with rights-reserved to sanction specific individuals and entities as the US see's fit. Overtime, this would enable Kim to move towards a more self-sufficient economy, meaning less reliance on China and Russia, and more opportunity in the world markets.

Not a Zero Sum Game

For Kim, that's a big win. It would mean that he not only oversaw the successful completion of North Korea's nuclear ambitions, but that he also used them to strong arm his way to global deference for said ambitions, all the while fixing a failed economy.

Trump has already indicated though that to even discuss economic relief, Kim must commit to dismantling the arsenal that he and his forefathers have worked tirelessly to build. He's also checked his initial enthusiasm in recent days, stating that the deal must be "fair and reasonable and good" or he'll walk away, likely reverting to his original "fire and fury" stance.

Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron finish a joint press conference Tuesday, during which Trump spoke on the upcoming summit.
Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron finish a joint press conference Tuesday, during which Trump spoke on the upcoming summit.

Total denuclearization is never going to happen. Kim believes his ICBM's keep the long arm of the American military at bay, and will prevent him from becoming another victim of regime change. The isolated nation has offered to negotiate on multiple occasions since at least the Clinton administration but these negotiations have broke down each time, with trust deteriorating to a state of non-existence in the process.

But there's reason to believe, despite the extraordinary risks, that progress may occur. Negotiations with Kim are not a zero sum game. At least, they don't have to be. While North Korea has already received a major concession by a getting a sitting US president to agree to meet, Trump could win bigger in the end. Sure, Trump in North Korea wouldn't be as monumental as Nixon in China simply (due to the stark differences between the communist states), but if he does manage to get Kim to suspend further testing, and ensure they hold up their end of the deal, he would have handled the last remaining rogue member of the "axis of evil."

More importantly, he would have demonstrated to his critics and the world that heavy-handed pressure works better than soft-spoken dialogue. This is a harder accomplishment to tout of course because again, Kim's coming to the table with nuclear rockets in his back pocket, and not simply because of Trump's pressure.

Axis of Evil. US in white. N Korea in Orange. Countries in blue were handled diplomatically by President Obama. Countries in red were handled militarily by President Bush. Countries in yellow are a mix of both.
Axis of Evil. US in white. N Korea in Orange. Countries in blue were handled diplomatically by President Obama. Countries in red were handled militarily by President Bush. Countries in yellow are a mix of both.

Of course, all this remains a long way off, and there's no way of telling how the upcoming meeting will turn out, if it happens at all. It's entirely possible that this is yet another delaying tactic. But given the stage North Korea's nuclear program has progressed to, and examining Kim's long term aim, it seem's he's now prepared to play diplomacy. He's successfully built nuclear weapons, now he wants to bargain with them to expand his empire.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, soapboxie.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://maven.io/company/pages/privacy

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)