This Week In Politics: U.S.-North Korea Relations

President Trump tweeted the North Korean news that it was suspending nuclear tests was “big progress.” Agreeing to meet with Kim Jong Un was a gamble for Trump, but so far it seems to be paying off.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

We turn now to Ron Elving, senior editor and correspondent on NPR’s Washington Desk. Ron, thanks so much for being with us.

RON ELVING, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Scott.

SIMON: President Trump tweeted that this news from North Korea is big progress. Do even those who have criticized the president in both parties for bluster and chaos have to say, well, if North Korea is taking this step and is coming to the table, maybe it’s paying off?

ELVING: You know, we may be seeing some payoff here for at least two world leaders. It can be argued that, as you say, the verbal assault by President Trump has actually added pressure on top of the years of sanctions that the United States has imposed here in an effort to bring North Korea to talk about curbing its nukes. And at the same time, that testing site had pretty much already done its job for Kim Jong Un. He’s seeing some success for his strategy of accelerating and hyping his nuclear program. That seems to have produced just what he wanted. He’s being taken seriously in the world community. He’s got a summit with the United States president. And he has a seat at the table of world nuclear powers, at least temporarily.

SIMON: We learned this week that the CIA director, Mike Pompeo, secretly went to North Korea and met with Kim. I guess that reminds us of Henry Kissinger going to China when no one knew about it.

ELVING: Yes. It reminds you and I of that, Scott.

SIMON: (Laughter) And a few others, yes.

ELVING: And here is the man who has been nominated to be the next secretary of state. And here he is, going on a secret mission with the CIA. You know, Kissinger was the national security adviser at the time. He was not yet secretary of state when he made that mission to China. Obviously, it advanced his case. Now, sometimes, these back-channel contacts are best done by someone other than the nation’s chief diplomat, who has to travel with a rather large entourage. And on the other hand, we actually haven’t had a national…

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