President Donald Trump, Kim Jong Un

Trump: Chris Kleponis / Sipa USA; Kim: Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP, File

High Stakes, 'Zero Trust' Between U.S. And North Korea As Summit Approaches

June 08, 2018 - 12:58 pm

SINGAPORE (WCBS 880/CBS News) -- President Donald Trump will fly to Singapore on Saturday morning, leaving the G-7 summit in Quebec early for his meeting with Kim Jong Un.

The president said Thursday if the meeting goes well, he'd consider inviting Kim to the U.S. But he also repeated that he'd be willing to walk out if the talks don't make progress.

As with so much of his presidency, Trump is building up his highly-anticipated meeting with Kim Jong Un as must-see TV, teasing us with what will no doubt be the world's most viewed meet and greet. And the stakes couldn't be higher.

It also comes after Trump attends the G-7 summit amid a trade spat with the nation’s closest allies.

“The president is going to be trying to kick this off with good chemistry,” said CBS News “Face the Nation” moderator Margaret Brennan. “He’s starting off in Canada on the wrong foot with U.S. allies and then will try to warm up to U.S. adversary Kim Jong Un when he gets to Singapore.”

"Given the 25 years of failed negotiations, I think the president has made that bold move saying, 'I'll meet him, I'll give him that major deliverable and hopefully we'll move forward," Ambassador Joseph DeTrani told CBS News correspondent Bianna Golodryga. He is guardedly optimistic about the North Korea summit. Between 2003 and 2006, he was the U.S. special envoy for six-party talks with North Korea.

"I think North Korea wants a normal relationship with the United States," DeTrani said. "Kim Jong Un has made it very clear with his New Year's address in 2018, his focus now is on the economy."

"But given how much effort, how much money, how much investment he's made into this nuclear program, it begs the question, why give it up?" Golodryga asked.

"I mean, we have to be realistic," DeTrani said. "Hopefully, this is what will transpire at the summit, is that Kim Jong Un articulates very clearly that he has made the strategic decision to give up his nuclear weapons and missile delivery systems in exchange for security assurances, economic development assistance, and a normal relationship with the United States."

President Trump's own advisers reportedly worry about how prepared he will be going into the meeting.

"I don't think I have to prepare very much. It's about the attitude. It's about willingness to get things done, but I think I've been preparing for this summit for a long time," Mr. Trump told reporters in the Oval Office Thursday. 

"I actually think that they might have good chemistry, believe it or not," said Sue Mi Terry, the Korea chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. She said Mr. Trump could hit it off with Kim.
 
"He's very gregarious. He's very different from his father who was an introvert and kind of antisocial and kind of a strange guy," Terry said. According to Terry, the optics matter.

"Well, I don't know what Kim Jong Un is going to do about the height difference," Terry said with a laugh, "because Kim Jong Un doesn't want to look in any way small, both physically or just symbolically."

In diplomacy, any gesture, from a lingering handshake to who foots the bill, can carry political significance.
 
"There had been some speculation as to whether or not the U.S. would be paying for his hotel room and accommodations for him and his entourage," Golodryga said. "Do you find that controversial at all?"

"I think, was it James Clapper… who had dinner in North Korea and they gave him a dinner bill?" Terry said. "North Koreans are notorious for this, so of course they're going to give us the tab. I think Singapore might pay for it. I think this is sort of ongoing negotiation in terms of who's paying for it." 

Negotiators typically choreograph every detail from the entrance to the greeting. But leaders do go off script and mistakes do happen.

In 2005, at a meeting with the Chinese, President George W. Bush memorably tried to exit from a door that was locked.

"I think the photo op is important for both leaders to be able to sort of go back and say they had a successful meeting," Terry said.

DeTrani said he hopes the summit will be the "start of a new type of relationship, one that will lend itself to peace on the Korean Peninsula."

"How important is it they walk out of these meetings on the same page?" Golodryga asked.

"You know, I smile because we've had some agreements in the past when we would negotiate with North Korea. And if we thought we agreed on the language, and all a sudden, they're saying something different," DeTrani said. "So yes, that's extremely important… Because those elements, it's not only atmospheric, it's those elements of process."

"And trust, right?"

"Trust," DeTrani said. "You know it's very unusual. I mean you're going into meetings where there's – between our respective countries, there's zero trust. Zero trust."

The symbolism matters. But, at the end of the day, it's about the substance. 

If North Korea wants a normal relationship with the U.S., it's more than just giving up their nukes. It will likely also have to address its human rights abuses, illicit activities and growing cyber threat. If the summit happens on June 12, it could be a first step to normalization. We shall see.

(© 2018 WCBS 880. CBS News contributed to this report.)