Landmark Summit Between Trump and Kim

By Andy B. Anderson


The landmark summit between President Trump and Supreme Leader of North Korea Kim services the U.S. national interest. Such highly anticipated meeting is beneficial since it satisfies all national interest's components, such as power, peace, prosperity, and principles. First, based on realism, the power objective can be exerted through the reassertion of U.S. leadership in the Asia-Pacific region vital to its interests through coercive self-help strategies; coercive diplomacy to ensure survival; and, if the summit fails, through the more aggressive policy of deterrence for survival purposes. Second, according to international institutionalism, the peace objective can be met by formally ending Korean war through joining international diplomatic efforts to broker peace between two Koreas; lowering regional instability by spearheading the improvement in North Korean nuclear counter-proliferation strategies, as well as halting further development and proliferation of ballistic missiles in association with international institutions. Third, based on economism, prosperity objective can be pursued by aligning the U.S. and North Korean interests for economic development and implementing economic policies to strengthen global capitalism through the incorporation of North Korea into regional and global economic systems. Lastly, according to democratic idealism, principles objective is serviced by pursuing political policies for human rights protection in the short-term and possible democracy promotion in the long-term periods.   

“The prospect of an unprecedented meeting between Kim and Trump has raised hopes that, if dashed, could make war more likely” (Jervis & Rapp-Hooper, 2018, p. 6). Currently, North Korea is the greatest threat to U.S. national security due to the rapid development of its nuclear and ballistic missile programs that can enable its brutal regime to launch the nuclear-tipped missiles at the U.S. homeland. In fact, the United States has to deal with its third nuclear deadlock with North Korea in nearly twenty-five years (Litvak, 2017, 11). The previous track record of nuclear diplomacy with North Korea does not inspire optimism (Gramer & Tamkin, 2018, pp. 1-7). The face-to-face meeting will be complicated since the issue of personal prestige is also at stake. Experts believe that Trump, as the internationally acclaimed dealmaker (Walt, 2018, p. 5), “finally met his match” in Kim regarding high-stakes geopolitical negotiations (Bicker, 2018, p. 1).  

Undoubtedly, the Trump administration faces a delicate juggling act to achieve all goals of national interest as well as to prevent North Korea’s rise from a pariah state unless it denuclearizes (Pierce, 2018, p. 2). However, this research article proves that despite a host of challenges, the historic summit still offers new opportunities to resolve the nuclear     crisis with North Korea, appropriately characterized as the present “Cuban missile crisis in slow motion” (Sanger & Broad, 2018, p. 1). The strategies underlying the power objective of national interest describe the first reason why this summit will not only be full of peril but promise as well.

Power Objective of National Interest

Based on realism, power can be exerted through the reassertion of U.S. leadership in the Asia-Pacific region vital to its interests through coercive self-help strategies; coercive diplomacy to ensure survival; and, if the summit fails, through the policy of deterrence for survival purposes. Power focuses not only on self-defense and protection of sovereignty with territorial integrity but also on the influence on foreign states and deterrence of military conflicts (Jentleson, 2014, p. 9). Although the realist paradigm consists of various subcategories, all realists subscribe to the three main ideas, such as statism, survival, and self-help. (Dunne & Schmidt, 2017, p. 113). The necessity of coercive self-help strategies explains the first reason for the servicing the power objective of national interest.

Coercive Strategies for Self-Help

Coercive self-help strategies can reassert U.S. leadership in the Asia-Pacific region vital to its interests. Besides war, aggression and other means that display the possession of sufficient military and political power are the principal coercive foreign policy policies that serve the power objective (Jentleson, 2014, p. 10). Waltz (1979) argues that “self-help is necessarily the principle of action” in an anarchic structure of the international system (p. 111). The self-help principle stresses that a state should not rely on any international institution or another state to guarantee its survival. However, in a self-help system, neorealists claim that alliances can be created that strive to balance themselves against the power of aggressive states (Dunne & Schmidt, 2017, p. 111). According to realism, an alliance against a shared adversary is an essential ingredient of the defense and deterrence strategies that serve the power objective of national interest. The past U.S. administrations have been successful in creating a network of transpacific bilateral alliances (Jentleson, 2014, p. 9-11). However, their attempts to combine “costly signaling” (Borghard & Rapp-Hooper, 2013, p. 91) with other foreign policies have all failed to intimidate North Korea to stop its nuclear aspirations (Stanton, Lee, & Klinger, 2017). Given the previous dismal results, Trump administration has decided to take a different approach similar to the one Trump articulated in the 1987’s newspaper advertisements: “there’s nothing wrong with America’s foreign defense policy that a little backbone can’t cure” (Laderman, 2017, p. 6). For example, Trump has demonstrated his preference for coercive self-help strategies by his readiness to commit larger military troops to the region, and, in contrast to Obama, to approve missile strikes in Syria (Zakheim, 2018, p. 1). The recent appointment of National Security Advisor John Bolton, who believes in the U.S. legitimacy for preemptive war (Bolton, 2018, p. 1), should give Kim a pause. The U.S. exit from the Iran nuclear deal also signals that the terms of any agreement with North Korea will be much more stringent than those of the Iranian deal (Gordon, 2018, p. 2). Thus, the coercive self-help policies can reassert U.S. leadership in the Pacific hemisphere. While supporting its bilateral alliances, the United States should continue showing its backbone to any overtures from North Korea that negatively affect U.S. national interest. The reliance on coercive self-help strategies is also closely related to coercive diplomacy to ensure survival, the second reason for striving for the power goal of national interest.

Coercive Diplomacy for Survival

Coercive diplomacy can ensure a state’s survival. According to realism, survival represents the apex of the national interest to which state leaders must adhere (Dunne & Schmidt, 2017, p. 113). Henry Kissinger (1977) agrees that “a nation’s survival is its first and ultimate responsibility; it cannot be compromised or put at risk” (p. 204). Furthermore, coercive diplomacy is defined as a type of diplomatic strategy with limited coercion that may be applied through economic sanctions and other measures to exert power. Successful “carrots and sticks” diplomacy is based on the pillars of coercive credibility, proportionality, and reciprocity (Jentleson, 2006, p. 2). Despite adopting a tough discourse towards North Korea, both Bush and Obama administrations were unsuccessful in fully enforcing sanctions against this rogue state. Although since 2006, in connection with the North Korea’s nuclear and missile development, the U.N. Security Council imposed sanctions, the member states have violated them throughout the years (Stanton et al., 2017, p. 71). In contrast, Trump administration has been more effective in its gambit of coercive diplomacy. For example, Trump’s “maximum pressure campaign” (Pence, 2018, p.1) has generated an impressive result bringing North Korea to the table without any U.S. concessions or promises (The summit of all fears, 2018, p. 41). China also finally cooperated in enforcing the 2017 United Nations (UN) sanctions of declining imports of North Korean goods that resulted in worsening North Korea’s balance of payments (DeThomas, 2018, p. 2). Thus, the efficient application of coercive diplomacy can ensure survival as well as open avenues for cooperation even with the rogue states. Trump administration should continue to preserve the leverage of the sanctions policy until North Korea can entirely and verifiably prove the disbarment of its nuclear arsenal. The coercive diplomacy campaign can be designed not to hurt its market development and humanitarian aid but target any violations of the North Korean regime while striving for complete denuclearization. In the name of necessity, the more assertive deterrence can also be justified in the case of the summit failure, the last reason for meeting the power objective of national interest.  

More Assertive Deterrence if Summit Fails

Similarly associated with survival, the more assertive deterrence is crucial in the event of the summit failure. Deterrence is defined as the preclusion of an attack due to the fear of retaliation (Jentleson, 2014, p. 137). The use of military force, a preemptive strike, is only advocated in the face of an unavoidable and imminent threat (Sagan, 2018, p. 76). Jervis and Rapp-Hooper (2018) assert that the United States cannot complete the campaign of destruction against North Korea now due to the advanced stage of its nuclear arsenal (p. 6). The past U.S. administrations deterred against North Korea through its network of transpacific bilateral alliances (Jentleson, 2014, pp. 434-436). However, while alliances were helpful in stopping significant attacks, they could not prevent lower-level provocations, such as the sinking of a South Korean warship in 2010 (Jervis & Rapp-Hooper, 2018, p. 5). In contrast, Trump administration has already announced its intentions to strengthen the U.S. deterrence strategy. For example, its Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) advocates the modernization of TRIAD of land-based ICBMs, sea-based SLBMs, heavy bombers along with the rebuilding of the old nuclear command-and-control system, replacement of the delivery platforms and other aging nuclear weapons infrastructure. The NRP also proposes the inclusion of the low-yield option for few submarine-launched missiles as well as the construction of a nuclear-armed-sea-launched cruise missile to deter the U.S. enemies and reassure its allies (Joseph, 2018, p. 2). Thus, in the event of the summit failure, the more aggressive policy of deterrence can ensure survival while serving the power objective of national interest. Trump administration’s renewed nuclear posture towards the multitude of strategic threats also strengthens deterrence against North Korea through the established network of transpacific alliances. The willingness of the United States and South Korea to finally respond to lower-level military provocations should also deter North Korea. The aforementioned three reasons present arguments for the satisfaction of power objective of national interest. International institutionalist approaches explain the strategies for peace objective of national interest.

Peace Objective of National Interest

According to international institutionalism, peace can be achieved by joining and leading international diplomatic efforts to broker peace between two Koreas; lowering regional instability by spearheading the improvement in North Korean nuclear counter-proliferation strategies; and halting further development and proliferation of ballistic missiles in association with international institutions. International institutionalism not only stresses the possibility of reducing military conflicts but also focuses on cooperation to make gains and mitigate risks that even a superpower cannot accomplish on its own (Jentleson, 2014, p. 12). The participation in the international diplomatic efforts to broker peace between two Koreas explains the first reason about achieving the peace objective of national interest.

Peace Broker Between Two Koreas

The leadership in international diplomatic efforts to broker peace between two Koreas serves peace objective of national interest. Based on international institutionalism, traditional diplomacy represents the primary tool in U.S. foreign policy strategy that stresses negotiation and dialogue (Jentleson, 2014, p. 12). For decades the past U.S. administrations were motivated by the tenets of this theory to seek strategies that primarily emphasized negotiations with the backdrop of the military force. Unfortunately, both the 1994 Agreed Framework and the 2003 Six-Party Talks collapsed (Gramer & Tamkin, 2018, p. 3). The leaders of both nations also never met. Despite “earlier bluster and saber-rattling” Trump administration not only has decided to join international diplomatic efforts towards North Korea but also agreed to the historic meeting between the states’ leaders that can result in a historic breakthrough on many fronts (Walt, 2018, p. 2). For instance, the summit between Trump and Kim can potentially lead to both peaceful and nuclear-free peninsula. In so doing, the United States can help broker peace between two Koreas similar to its role played at the end of 1904-05 Russo-Japanese war or its leadership in the 1973-75 “shuttle diplomacy,” 1978 Camp David accord, and 1995 Dayton accord (Jentleson, 2014, p. 14). Perhaps, Kim’s ability to be heard by the most powerful leader of the West might mean that the fifth attempt to bring peace to the Korean Peninsula will prevail (Burton, 2018, p. 2). The previous negotiators with North Korea are cautiously optimistic about this landmark summit since they believe that to reach a breakthrough on many fronts “at some point there has to be a leader-to-leader meeting because on their side only one person can decide” (The summit of all fears, 2018, p. 41). Thus, U.S. leadership and cooperation in international diplomatic efforts to broker peace on Korean peninsula serves peace objective of national interest. The historic summit with the possible formal ending of Korean war will not only provide a Nixon-China opening but also assist the U.S. in its essential agenda for the complete denuclearization of North Korea. U.S. leadership in improving North Korean nuclear counter-proliferation strategies in cooperation with international institutions not only lowers regional instability but also provides another reason for serving the peace objective of national interest.

Improvement of North Korean Nuclear Counter-Proliferation Strategies

 U.S. leadership in improving North Korean nuclear counter-proliferation strategies in cooperation with international institutions lowers regional instability. International institutions serve as the foundation for “governance in a partially globalized world” (Keohane, 2001, p. 1). The informal international institution or an international regime for nuclear nonproliferation is International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) (Jentleson, 2014, p. 13). The past U.S. administrations and international institutions were unsuccessful in their counter-proliferation attempts. North Korea, for example, agreed and unilaterally withdrew from two IAEA safeguards agreements and the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. It also violated the 1992 inter-Korean Joint Declaration, the 1994 Agreed Framework, a September 2005 joint statement, as well as 2007 and the 2012 agreements (Stanton et al., 2017, p. 67). In contrast, Trump administration demands “complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization” of North Korea (Hong, 2018, p. 1). The potential task of eliminating the nuclear program needs to be supplemented with the improved nuclear counter-proliferation strategies. For example, Trump administration needs to establish a counterproliferation coalition with Japan and South Korea that can cooperate with law enforcement and share intelligence about naval nuclear smuggling. It can also try to persuade China and Russia about forming a five-party Northeast Asian counterproliferation regime (Cha & Katz, 2018, p. 94). At the same time, if the United States is successful in settling the issue of denuclearization, it should work closely with the international community to dismantle the program (Michaels, 2018, p. 1). The “dismantlement of intelligence” is also an essential element of the renewed counter-proliferation policy (Ko, 2018, p. 1). Thus, U.S. leadership in improving North Korean nuclear counter-proliferation strategies in cooperation with international institutions will lower regional instability. The complete denuclearization will present challenges since North Korean regime links the nuclear program to its survival. Even if Trump might reach an agreement about the denuclearization during the summit, improved counter-proliferation strategies will be required to stop any attempts of North Korean nuclear proliferation. The cooperation with international institutions is also needed to halt further development and proliferation of ballistic missiles, the third reason for meeting the peace goal of national interest.

Termination of Ballistic Missile Development and Proliferation

Pursuing termination of ballistic missile development and proliferation in collaboration with international institutions contributes to the foreign policy motivated by the mission for peace. The tenets of international institutionalism can also be applied for such an undertaking. Due to the anarchy of international system, both formal and informal international institutions can facilitate and necessitate the fulfillment of commitments for coordination and collective action between individual states. Along with the IAEA, the Missile Technology Control Regime (Davenport, 2018, para. 1), and the Hague Code of Conduct (Hague Code of Conduct, 2018, para. 1) represent primary international regimes to limit the proliferation of ballistic missiles. The past U.S. administrations and international institutions made little progress in their efforts to restrict the proliferation or testing of North Korean ballistic missile systems. Cha and Katz (2018) further claim that the North Korean missile program “has not been a topic of negotiations in almost two decades, and Trump can score a victory on this count “(p. 91). In 2017 North Korea not only tested twenty-three ballistic missiles but also completed its first inter-continental ballistic missile test resulting in the urgent need for counter-strategies against the North Korean ballistic missile program (Human Right Watch, 2017, p. 1). For example, experts call for some dual track strategies, such as one that involves pressure and negotiations or another one that includes pressure and containment (Einhorn, 2017, pp. 14-15). To persuade North Korea to terminate its nuclear and missile initiatives, the United States also needs to design a package of security guarantees, political incentives, and compliance mechanisms. The ballistic missiles dual-use dilemma can be resolved if Russia agrees to the previously offered solution to launch all satellites for North Korea (Delury, 2017, p. 49). Thus, the emphasis on ending ballistic missile development and proliferation serves the goal of peace. The face-to-face meeting between two leaders holds promise for a breakthrough. However, only the dismantling of nuclear facilities, movement of its warheads and missiles overseas, along with the IAEA inspections can assure such an undertaking. The aforementioned three reasons present arguments for the satisfaction of peace objective of national interest. The approaches based on economism can explain the strategies for prosperity, the third core goal of national interest.

Prosperity Objective of National Interest

Based on economism, prosperity objective can be pursued by aligning the U.S. and North Korean interests for economic development and implementing economic policies to strengthen global capitalism through incorporation of North Korea into regional and global economic systems. Economism represents one of the leading theories that stress the importance of the economic factors in American foreign policy (Jentleson, 2014, p. 14). Whereas imperialism focuses on the private profit of special interests, economism offers economic means and tools that would benefit the entire nation (Li, 2002, p. 2). The alignment of U.S. and North Korean interests for economic development explains the first reason for achieving the prosperity objective of national interest.

Alignment of U.S. and North Korean Interests for Economic Development

The alignment of the U.S. and North Korean interests for economic development serves the prosperity goal of national interest. The pursuit of such strategy coincides with economism that underscores foreign policies for achieving the favorable balance of trade, robust economic growth, and other healthy macroeconomic parameters. Inspired by realism, the previous U.S. administrations chose to exert power through coercive diplomacy strategies, such as harsh economic sanctions (Jentleson, 2014, p. 12-14). In contrast, contemporary foreign policy experts advocate counterintuitive policies that may motivate North Korea to concentrate on its prosperity versus on its self-preservation through the buildup of the nuclear arsenal (Delury, 2017, p. 46). Such foreign policy approach is beneficial for the United States as well since it also achieves economic benefits for its nation. For instance, the U.S. needs to entice North Korea to permanently shift its policy from pursuing “simultaneous progress” in economic development and nuclear deterrence to focusing solely on its economic growth. This goal can be accomplished through the sizeable foreign aid program and preferential tariff system that can start after the verifiable achievement of denuclearization (Hong, 2018, p.1). The provision of strong U.S. support for North Korean economic reconstruction, similar to the Marshall Plan of 1947, serves American prosperity goal of increasing demand for American exports, providing low-cost imports, and generating opportunities for American investments (Jentleson, 2014, p. 20). To achieve the potentially favorable balance of trade with North Korea, the United States can also liberalize its trade relations with North Korea similar to the one underlined in the 2001 trade agreement with the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (Nanto & Chanlett-Avery, 2010, p. 63). Thus, the proper alignment of the U.S. and North Korean interests for economic development not only forces North Korea to decide between its economy and its nuclear arsenal but also brings potential gains to the American economy. Moreover, such foreign economic policies help assert American global predominance on the entire Korean peninsula while dismantling North Korean reliance on China, its primary economic partner. The focus on the growth momentum for both U.S. and North Korean economies is closely related to the second reason of reaching the prosperity objective through the incorporation of North Korea into regional and global systems.

Incorporation of North Korea into Regional and Global Economic Systems

The incorporation of North Korea into regional and global systems through the implementation of economic policies can strengthen global capitalism as the foundation of the international economy that benefits American prosperity. Delury (2017) claims that North Korea can only abandon its nuclear program “only once it feels secure and prosperous and is economically integrated into Northeast Asia” (p. 46). Hong (2018) agrees that Kim’s desire for Vietnamese and Chinese-style economic progress is a positive sign for both global security and prosperity. The U.S. institutional measures cannot only also assist South Korea in subsidizing North Korean economic rehabilitation (Nanto & Chanlett-Avery, 2010, p. 53) but also provide America unique opportunity in reaping benefits during the North Korean economic transformation. For example, the North Korean 2018’s parliamentary economy report emphasizes the development of the energy sector, C1 chemical industry, tourism, and special economic zones (Frank, 2018, p. 3-5). If the U.S. decides to ease sanctions in conjunction with North Korean credible steps towards denuclearization, it can open North Korean economy to American companies for meaningful engagement in the economic sectors that are important for the prosperity of both powers. In cooperation with South Korea, the U.S. companies can also lend their expertise and financial backing in revamping the transportation system on the Korean Peninsula (Yoon, 2018, p. 1). Kim specifically mentioned the poor condition of its railways and infrastructure during the April’s summit with South Korea (Katseff, 2018, p. 1). Moreover, the U.S. may allow North Korea to join international financial institutions, especially, the Asian Development Bank that can provide development assistance and integration into the global economy (Nanto & Chanlett-Avery, 2010, p. 64). Thus, economic integration of North Korea into regional and global systems can strengthen global capitalism and benefit American economy. Although North Korea’s leadership has shown interest in some basic economic reforms, the potential détente with the United States can further lead North Korea towards global cooperation and integration. The aforementioned two reasons present arguments for serving prosperity objective of national interest. Approaches based on democratic idealism delineate strategies for reaching the principles goal of national interest.  

Principles Objective of National Interest

According to democratic idealism, principles objective is serviced by pursuing political policies for human rights protection in the short-term and possible democracy promotion in the long-term periods. The principles objective combines ideas, beliefs, and value system of the United States that claims to be the world’ greatest democracy. The proponents of democratic idealism believe that the United States has a special duty in the international system to spread democracy globally. Furthermore, they think that in the long-run other goals of national interest are adequately assisted by principles (Jentleson, 2014, pp.16-18). The pursuit of political means for human rights advocacy in North Korea in the short-term period is the first reason for aiding the principles objective of national interest.

Short-Term Aspiration: Human Rights Protection

Standing up for its founding principles, the United States should place political policies towards the protection of North Korean human rights on the top of its immediate agenda. Human rights advocacy should undoubtedly prevail not only during short-term but also long-term periods since the United Nations considers North Korean human rights abuses as a regional security threat (Robertson, 2016, p. 4). However, due to the totalitarian nature of North Korean regime, the focus on the human rights protection is the only way to serve the goal of principles (Jentleson, 2014, p. 439). Although North Korea emphasizes that its citizens “enjoy equal rights in all spheres of state and public activity,” its socio-political caste system (songbun) contradicts the constitution and violates multiple international human rights agreements signed by North Korea (Robertson, 2016, p. 3). Inspired by democratic idealism, the past U.S. administrations tried but did not succeed to prevent the human rights abuses in North Korea (Klinger, 2016, p. 2). In contrast, despite its general hesitation about the promotion of the principles objective (Kurlantzick, 2018, p. 1), Trump administration elevated the topic of North Korean human rights violations to the higher level than its predecessors (Enos, 2017, p. 1). For example, Trump privately met with North Korean escapees and invited one of them to his 2018 State of the Union address. In January as well as October 2017, the United States imposed human-rights related sanctions on five institutions and fourteen individuals from North Koreans (Human Rights Watch, 2018, p. 7). In a gesture of goodwill, North Korea has recently released U.S. detainees (Reuters, 2018, p. 1). However, the regime scolded the United States for voicing concern about its human rights abuses before the summit (Yonhap, 2018, p. 1). Thus, the pursuit of political policies for North Korean human rights protection in the short-term aids the principle objective of national interest. Despite the aggressive rhetoric from the regime, any negotiations need to address human rights, perhaps, as a side agreement. Protection of human rights is also linked to the long-term goal of democracy promotion, the last reason for serving American principles.

Long Term Aspiration: Democracy Promotion  

Although promoting democracy in North Korea now seems like an impossible task, subtle and gradual efforts towards such goal can demonstrate the U.S. commitment to the principles objective of national interest. Democracy promotion usually involves six core principles, such as human rights protection, building strong and accountable political institutions, facilitation of fair and free elections, the creation of free press, strengthening the rule of law, and cultivation of civil society. Finding the optimal fit and the correct mix of approaches has always been a challenge for U.S. foreign policy. (Jentleson, 2014, p. 365). Enthused by both democratic idealism and, mainly, the democratic peace theory, the past U.S. administrations were keen about democracy promotion (Rieffer & Mercer, 2006, p. 1). In contrast, Trump administration does not prioritize democracy promotion since it does not want the United States to “impose our values on others” (The White House, 2017, p. 37). For example, the White House requested to reduce FY2019 financial allocation towards for the National Endowment for Democracy and other democracy promotion programs. It also has not appointed an Assistant Secretary of State for democracy, human rights and labor (Kullantzick, 2018, p. 2). In the meantime, the motivation for defection in North Korea has been changing from seeking food to wanting “freedom, opportunities, and hope” (Rogers, 2018, p. 2). Human rights activists believe that the change in North Korean regime can happen not only through the increase of information to the country but also through engagement with the growing community of its defectors (Rogers, 2018, p. 2). Thus, subtle and gradual efforts towards the difficult task of democracy promotion can demonstrate the commitment to American principles. Abandoning democracy promotion altogether can weaken American leadership role in the world as well as its security and economic interests. The aforementioned two reasons outline the strategies for achieving the principles objective of national interest.


The examination of this pivotal event in the U.S. foreign policy through the strategic context of foreign policy needs to mention important considerations, such as the persistence of security dilemma; difficulties in the traditional and coercive diplomacy approaches; the limited upside of North Korean economic liberalization for prosperity objective in the short and mid-term periods; and the necessity of managing Chinese maneuvers as a rising regional hegemon.

First, the persistence of security dilemma threatens to derail the outcome of the U.S.-North Korea summit. Security dilemma occurs when a state that seeks to improve one’s offensive military capabilities ignites the insecurity of other states (Dunne & Schmidt, 2017, p. 111). Thus, security dilemma in the international system is seen “as the essential source of conflict among states” (Baylis, 2017, p. 243). For example, the fears from both North Korea and the United States about the intentions of their opponents, as well as insecurities created by the North Korean nuclear tests and the U.S.-South Korea military drills are the prominent triggers of security dilemma between the two states (Stanton et al., p. 74). Cementing security for the United States, the National Security Adviser Bolton has recently proposed the quick and irreversible dismantling of North Korean nuclear arsenal similar to the Libyan denuclearization. North Korea, in contrast, demands phased-in denuclearization with the firm security guarantees that includes the peace treaty with the United States, normalized bilateral relations, and elimination of sanctions (Choe, 2018, p. 3). Thus, history and the developing events suggest that one state’s pursuit of security causes the insecurity in another sovereign state. The conflict of interests between the United States and North Korea is predicated on the ongoing security dilemma.

Second, difficulties in both traditional and coercive diplomacy also present challenges for the Trump-Kim summit. For instance, the misperception of each other’s objectives during traditional diplomatic negotiations can lead to the avalanche in bilateral relations and the possible military conflict. Each state already distrusts each other since the United States sees North Korea as a fickle actor whereas North Korea views its opponent as a threat to its survival. The “time-technology dilemma” also presents the danger to the United States. Trump administration, therefore, needs to secure significant early concessions since North Korea is close to achieving its technical goals. As the time passes, North Korea’s gains from the negotiations will be more than those of the United States (Jervis & Rapp-Hooper, 2018, p. 4). Moreover, the United States needs to carefully coordinate the coercive diplomacy tactics, such as its effective sanctions policy during and after the summit (DeThomas, 2018, p.1).  

Third, the economic liberalization of North Korea provides only limited benefits for the prosperity objective in the short and mid-term periods. For example, UBS’s economist Zeng asserts that due to the small size of the North Korean economy in comparison to that of South Korea (North Korea’s 2017 GDP was 1.2% of South Korea’s 2017 GDP), the macroeconomic implications of economic development will be limited in the near or mid-term future. Thus, the talks about North Korean tremendous untapped potential for economic growth in Northeast Asia might be slightly premature (Martin, 2018, p. 2). Some experts also might question the advantages of the proposed financial package for North Korean economic reconstruction due to the past failures of the 1998-2008 “sunshine policy” assistance that saved the regime from the economic abyss and army rebellion (Stanton et al., 2017, p. 68). 

Lastly, in addition to dealing with denuclearization and possible reunification of two Koreas, the United States needs to manage Chinese maneuvers as an aspiring regional hegemon. Although over the past two decades the relations between China and North Korea became strained (Mastro, 2018, p. 58), the two recent meetings between its leaders demonstrate that the old ties have not been broken (Bandow, 2018, p. 1). For example, in March 2018, Kim told the South Korean head of National Security office that he understood the necessity of the U.S- South Korea military exercises (Chung, 2018, p. 1). In mid-May 2018, North Korea sharply criticized the U.S.-South Korea routine air combat drills. Experts believe that Chinese President Xi Jinping influenced Kim during those meetings since Xi has always promoted “the freeze of the North Korean nuclear program for a freeze in U.S.-South Korean drills” (Stewart, 2018, p. 3). Trump also alludes that Xi might instigate problems between North Korea and the United States as a retaliation to the U.S.- China disagreement over trade (Bierman & Lauter, 2018, p. 3). Thus, such sharp reversal in the North Korean stance proves that China not only wants to score a double-win for its regional security but also move closer to its goal of becoming a regional hegemon in the Pacific hemisphere.


Regardless of the presented considerations in this research article, the analysis of such an unprecedented top-level meeting demonstrates that the landmark summit between Trump and Kim can service all components of national interest, such as power, peace, prosperity, and principles. Realism, international institutionalism, economism, and democratic idealism provide necessary theoretical frameworks for the U.S. foreign policy strategies related to these objectives. 

Both states will have to take bold steps to overturn decades of mistrust to achieve a historic outcome. At the same time, Trump administration needs to align the potentially changing North Korean policy with the rest of the comprehensive strategy in Asia. The successful summit can not only dismantle the Cold War framework on the Korean Peninsula but also dramatically transform the rest of the world.  


Andy B. Anderson attends Norwich University where he pursues a Master of Art in International Relations and a concentration in International Security. 


Baylis, J. (2017). International and global security. In J. Baylis, S. Smith & P. Owens, (Eds.), The globalization of world politics; an introduction to international relations (pp. 238-252). Oxford: Oxford University Press

Bandow, D (2018, May 13).  Kim Jong-un brings Beijing to heel. Korea Times. Retrieved from

Bicker, L. (2018, May 16). Kim Jong-un's warning shot to the US over nuclear talks. BBC News. Retrieved from

Bierman, N. & Lauter, D. (2018, May 18). Trump promised N. Korea “protections” in nuclear deal, distances himself from Bolton. Tribune News Service. Retrieved from‘protections’-in-nuclear-deal-distances-himself-from-bolton/ar-AAxrsm0?ocid=spartanntp

Bolton, J. (2018, February 18). The legal case for striking North Korea first. Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from

Borghard, E.D., & Rapp-Hooper, M. (2013, August/September). Hizbullah and the Iranian Nuclear Programme. Survival, 55(4), 85-106. 

Cha, V. & Katz, K.F. (2018, May/June). The right way to coerce North Korea: ending the threat without going to war. Foreign Affairs, 97(3), 87-100.

Choe, S.H. (2018, May 17). North Korea’s sudden shift puts South’s leader on the spot. The New York Times. Retrieved from’s-sudden-shift-puts-south’s-leader-on-the-spot/ar-AAxptPS?ocid=spartanntp

Chung, E.Y. (2018, March 8). Remarks by Republic of Korea National Security Advisor Chung Eui-Yong. The White House. Retrieved from

Davenport, K. (2018, May 9). Chronology of U.S-North Korean nuclear and missile diplomacy. Arms Control Association. Retrieved from

Delury, D. (2017, March/April). Trump and North Korea: reviving the art of the deal. Foreign Affairs, 96(2), 46-51.

DeThomas, J. (2018, March 23). Sanctions and the summit: coordination challenges for the Trump administration. 38th North. Retrieved from

Dunne, T., & Schmidt, B. (2017). Realism.  In J. Baylis, S. Smith & P. Owens, (Eds.), The globalization of world politics: an introduction to international relations (pp.101-115). Oxford: Oxford University Press

Einhorn, R. (2017, March). Non-proliferation challenges facing the Trump administration. The Brookings Institution. Retrieved from

Enos, O. (2017, October 31). New human rights sanctions a positive step toward hitting North Korea where it hurts. Forbes. Retrieved from

Frank, R. (2018, April 19). The North Korean parliamentary session and budget report 2018: cautious optimism for the summit year. 38 North. Retrieved from

Gordon, P. (2018, March 20). “Fixing” the Iran nuke deal ahead of North Korea talks is a terrible idea. Foreign Policy. Retrieved from

Gramer, R., & Tamkin, E. (2018, March 12).  Decades of U.S. diplomacy with North Korea: a timeline. Foreign Policy. Retrieved from

Hague Code of Conduct (2018). About HCoC. Hague Code of Conduct. Retrieved from

Hong, H.S. (2018, May 7).  Former South Korea special envoy: why I am hopeful about North Korea. The Washington Post. Retrieved from

Human Rights Watch (2018). North Korea: country summary. Human Rights Watch. Retrieved from

Jentleson, B.W. (2006). Coercive diplomacy: scope and limits in the contemporary world. The Stanley Foundation. Retrieved from

Jentleson, B.W. (2014). American foreign policy: the dynamics of choice in the 21st century. (5th ed.). New York: W.W. Norton & Co. 

Jervis, R. & Rapp-Hooper, M. (2018, April 5). Perception and misperception on the Korean Peninsula: how unwanted wars begin. Foreign Affairs. Retrieved from

Joseph, R., (2018, February) Trump nuclear posture outlines reasoned steps to ensure deterrence after years of neglect. The Hill. Retrieved from

Katseff, B. (2018, April 29). The Koreas summit and the North Korean economy: why infrastructure is on the table. North Korean Economy Watch. Retrieved from

Keohane, R.O. (2001, March). Governance in a partially globalized world: Presidential address, American Political Science Association, 2000. American Political Science Review, 95(1), 1-13.

Kissinger, H. (1977). American Foreign Policy. (3rd ed.). New York: W.W. Norton

Klinger, B. (2016, July 6). US sanctions North Korea for human rights violations. The Daily Signal. Retrieved from

Ko, D.H. (2018, May 14), Fate of 10,000 Pyongyang nuclear scientists up in the air. Korea Times. Retrieved from

Kullantzick, J. (2018, March 19). Trump has abandoned democracy promotion. Which countries could fill the void. World Politics Review. Retrieved from

Laderman, C. (2017, February 17).  Donald Trumps’ 1950s self-help foreign policy. Foreign Policy. Retrieved from

Li, K. (2003). Capitalist development and economism in East Asia: the rise of Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, and South Korea (Routledge studies in the growth economies of Asia, 35). London: Routledge.

Litvak, R. (2017, February). Preventing North Korea’s nuclear breakout. Wilson Center. Retrieved from

Martin, W. (2018, May 5). UBS: one of the biggest expected benefits of a North and South Korea peace deal could fail to materialize. Business Insider Deutschland. Retrieved from

Mastro, O.S. (2018, January/February). Why China won’t rescue North Korea: what to expect if things fall apart. Foreign Affairs, 97(1), 58-66.

Michaels, J. (May 13, 2018).  Analysts: Dismantling North Korea nukes would cost hundreds of millions, take years to complete. USA Today. Retrieved from

Nanto, D.K. & Chantlett-Avery, E. (2010, January 22). North Korea: economic leverage and policy analysis. Congressional Research Service. Retrieved from

Pence, M. (2018, March 9). Statement from Vice President Mike Pence on North Korea. The White House. Retrieved from

Pierce, A. (2018, March 17). Trump should beware of North Korea’s peace overtures – Kum Jong Un can’t be trusted. Fox News.  Retrieved from

Reuters (2018, May 10). Release of Americans by North Korea sets stage for summit. International Business Times. Retrieved from

Rieffer, B.A. & Mercer, K. (2006). US democracy promotion: the Clinton and Bush administrations. Global Society, 19(4), 385-408.

Robertson, P. (2016, June 30). The North Korea’s caste system: the trouble with songbun. Foreign Affairs. Retrieved from

Roger, B. (2018, February 6). North Korea human rights, 4 years after the UN Inquiry. The Diplomat. Retrieved from

Sagan, S.D. (2017, November/December). The Korean missile crisis: why deterrence is still the best option. Foreign Affairs, 96(6), 72-82.

Sanger, D. & Broad, W. (2018, April 16). A ‘Cuban Missile Crisis in slow motion’ in North Korea. The New York Times. Retrieved from

Stanton, J., Lee, S.Y., & Klinger, B. (2017, May/June). Getting tough on North Korea: how to hit Pyongyang where it hurts. Foreign Affairs, 96(3), 65-75.

Stewart, P. (2018, May 16). For Pentagon, South Korea drills became a crucial but quiet endeavor. Reuters. Retrieved from

The summit of all fears (2018, March 15). The Economist. Retrieved from

The White House (2017, December 18). A new national security strategy for a new era. The White House. Retrieved from

Walt, S. (2018, Marcy 15). Give North Korea all the prestige it wants. Foreign Policy. Retrieved from

Waltz, K. (1979). Theory of International Politics. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.

Yonhap (2018, May 15). North Korea blasts US for raising human rights issues ahead of Kim-Trump summit. The Korea Times. Retrieved from

Yonhap (2018, May 16). North Korea-US summit in doubt. The Korea Times. Retrieved from

Yoon, J.Y. (2018, May 1). Connecting railways are a must for inter-Korean cooperation. Korea Times. Retrieved from

Zakheim, D. (2018, March 15).  Mike Pompeo will be North Korea’s Trump whisperer. Foreign Policy. Retrieved from