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Hmmm: Trump to leave North Korea summit 15 hours early, after meeting with Kim

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The man does not like to linger at international powwows.

Trump had been scheduled to fly back to Washington on Wednesday morning after spending Tuesday with the North Korean leader in Singapore. But on the eve of the summit, he altered his schedule, opting to return at about 8 p.m. on Tuesday after a full day of meetings with Kim — almost 15 hours earlier than previously anticipated.

“The discussions between the United States and North Korea are ongoing and have moved more quickly than expected,” the White House said in a statement…

The summit — the first ever between a sitting American president and North Korea’s leader — was to kick off at 9 a.m., the White House said. After greeting each other, the two leaders planned to sit for a one on one meeting that a U.S. official said could last up to two hours, with only translators joining them. The official wasn’t authorized to discuss the plans and insisted on anonymity.

I’m not thrilled with the idea of POTUS and Kim one on one for hours, knowing that Trump (a) loves to try to please whichever audience is in front of him at a given moment, as we’ve seen with our own eyes, and (b) views this mainly as an opportunity to schmooze whereas Kim probably has specific concessions from the U.S. in mind. But if he gives away the farm in private conversations, no worries: He’ll just renege when he’s back behind closed doors and being lobbied by friends and advisors. He did it with immigration reform, he did it with the horrible omnibus spending bill he signed, he can do it with this.

Hopefully it won’t mean war. Hopefully. But hey: “We’re America, bitch!”

Three possible explanations for his early departure. One, the White House is telling the truth. Negotiations are moving more quickly than expected. No need to stick around any longer than necessary. The wrinkle there is that Trump himself reminded the media after meeting Kim Yong Chol at the White House that this is just the first step on a long journey towards denuclearization. If more progress than expected is being made, why stop? Keep walking. Take advantage of the NorKs while they’re in a mood to deal.

Two, the White House is lying. Negotiations are already at a standstill and so there’s no point dragging this out. Just do the grip-and-grin, make some small talk with promises of future meetings, and fly home. No one knows what’s being said during preliminary discussions today but previous meetings point towards this possibility, per WaPo:

A key stumbling block in the negotiations has been what comes first. The North Koreans want a firm security guarantee, meaning a promise that the United States will not attack or seek to overthrow Kim. The Americans want a substantive denuclearization pledge…

The issue plagued a May 27 meeting in Panmunjom between U.S. and North Korean diplomats, according to a person familiar with the discussions. The talks began with the North Korean side, led by Choe, saying denuclearization should not be on the table for the Singapore summit — a position rejected by the Americans as a non-starter.

The two sides did not meet for two days, in part because the North Korean delegation did not have the authority to negotiate without additional guidance from Pyongyang, until reconvening briefly May 30 for a session that made little progress in resolving the impasse.

Not terrific! But herein lies the value of negotiating with Kim directly. There’s only one person in North Korea who can get things unstuck on nukes and he’ll be directly involved in negotiations with the president a few hours from now. It’s not impossible, however unlikely, that the NorKs have been holding back on denuclearization until today, when the man in charge can give the order himself.

Three, it’s actually Kim who decided to leave early and now Trump is scrambling to do so too so that he doesn’t end up looking like a chump, eating a cloud of dust from Kim’s jet as he takes off for Pyongyang tomorrow.

Trump had been willing to stay in Singapore longer if negotiations were progressing well, but since Kim booked his departure, Trump booked his own.

He’s now leaving at 7 p.m. local time on Tuesday.

— Jennifer Jacobs (@JenniferJJacobs) June 11, 2018

POTUS does not like having people cancel on him. It’s a power move that leaves him looking desperate for their companionship, or so he fears. If there’s any hint that you’re about to snub him, he’ll scramble to make sure that, at a minimum, the snub will be seen as a mutual. It’s a variation of the “you can’t break up with me, I’m breaking up with you” dynamic. He did it just last week with the Philadelphia Eagles, canceling their White House ceremony after he found out that they were planning to insult him with a delegation of just a few players. The question is why Kim is leaving early. Was he trying to execute a power move, ditching Trump before he found out he was leaving? Is he just paranoid about being in a country where he doesn’t enjoy perfect security? Stay tuned.

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