Let me take a crack at answering the question on the minds of every TV host, pundit, journalist and think-tanker, and even the mind of the President of the United States: What will be the ultimate result out of the U.S.-North Korea Singapore summit?
The answer is easy: Lots of amazing photos that will be glossed over for a generation, and talk of an historic success!
Or, at least, that is what we will be led to believe, if history is any guide.
You don’t need a PhD from Princeton, or 30 years’ experience at Langley studying the successive Kim regimes’ mind-numbing propaganda statements, to know what Pyongyang will almost certainly do during what President TrumpDonald TrumpSix big off-year elections you might be missing Twitter suspends GOP Rep. Banks for misgendering trans health official Meghan McCain to Trump: 'Thanks for the publicity' MORE bills as a “one-time shot” to escape its reputation as the roguest of rogue regimes on Planet Earth.
All you have to do is put yourself in the shoes of the portly pariah of Pyongyang, Kim Jong Un. From there, what to do next is easy.
All Kim must do is get his handshake — the selfie that will likely be the photo of the century — with President Trump and slug out but ultimately agree to a nuclear deal with Washington that will seem, at least initially, like a real deal to give up his nuclear arsenal.
Let more handshakes commence. People will say that Kim has changed, is a new type of leader who could transform his nation. Heck, we could even see President Moon of South Korea join the festivities, where a formal ending of the Korean War could be agreed to.
But don’t we know already how this story ends? History cries out to us, its testimony literally showing us page-by-page what happens next: Kim will go back on his word — like the Kims who have ruled North Korea for three generations always do.
How he will do it is almost pointless in trying to figure out, but what North Korea has done in the past when it comes to breaking its word should serve as a good guide.
They could lock us into technical negotiations for months or years over their false nuclear disarmament, claiming that America and its allies are violating the deal. Or they could try to bend the rules of the agreement, or just outright back out of it — we all know the history of how North Korea treats deals when it comes to its nuclear weapons: They are as disposable as toilet paper.
No matter what agreement Pyongyang signs, it will agree to something. For it knows, all too well, that once the world sees Kim and Trump shake hands and forge an agreement, it will most likely have slipped out of what can only be described as a self-imposed international isolation that was historic in its scope and longevity. And putting it back into the box will prove almost impossible.
Thankfully, the Trump administration can find a way to avoid what would be a historic — but painfully obvious — mistake.
Here is a simple way to flush Kim’s trap out into the open: Whatever is agreed to on nuclear disarmament needs to be done fast, to test Kim’s intentions right away and to gain the upper hand. The Trump administration should demand that North Korea give up one or two nuclear weapons right away, as a down-payment of trust. America would not need to take procession of the weapons; they could be entrusted to an international party like the IAEA or another third-party, so Kim is reassured that we will not gain any technical knowledge of his nuclear program.
If my theory is correct, Kim will quickly start to squirm, making either new demands or trying to claim that we are violating the deal in some way. The trick here is to reveal his trap and fast — as we need to ruin the shine of his carefully crafted image makeover — as it would be a historic shame if our “maximum-pressure” campaign were to fall apart before Kim makes a single real concession, his likely strategy all along.
President Trump does indeed have a tall task ahead of him in Singapore. The challenge, however, won’t be in making a deal, but most likely trying to get Kim to stick to it as he tries to get out of the box in which we have placed his regime.
So, it would seem, it does not matter what happens in Singapore. Its only what happens afterward that counts. And, if history is any guide, we already know Kim’s plan. I can only hope we don’t fall for it — again.
Harry J. Kazianis (@grecianformula) is director of Defense Studies at the Center for the National Interest, founded in 1994 by President Richard M. Nixon, as well as executive editor on its publishing arm, The National Interest. Kazianis previously served on the foreign policy team of the 2016 Ted Cruz presidential campaign. He has also held positions as Foreign Policy Communications Manager at the Heritage Foundation, editor-in-chief of The Diplomat as well as a fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. The views voiced in this article are his own.