All we need is love
The author is the Washington bureau chief of the JoongAng Ilbo.
What impressed me when I arrived in Hanoi, Vietnam, was the endless procession of motorcycles. Vietnam has a population of 96 million, and there are more than 50 million registered motorcycles. There are no signals or lanes. Motorcycles go where they please. Pedestrians also jaywalk. Yet, interestingly, there are not many accidents. In most accidents, pedestrians are hurt when they run to avoid motorcycles. Unexpected moves lead to accidents.
The two-day U.S.-North Korea meeting in Hanoi is similar. The United States and North Korea are following neither lanes nor rules. As long as they can expect the moves of the other party, the game is on. What matters is the unexpected moves. I am concerned about unexpected dashes from U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
This second summit is a showdown between Trump and Kim. Trump was the only one in the U.S. administration to push for an “unripe” second summit. U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun remained in the role of a messenger. Sources told me that he could not bring any progress from his three-day trip to Pyongyang early this month. He could not receive any “directions” from Trump due to the possibility of wiretapping. But Trump sent Biegun to Pyongyang knowing that.
Trump believes that one true negotiator — himself — is enough. In the end, he wants a showdown with Kim. Right before boarding Air Force One, Trump said he would speak with Kim “about something that, frankly, he never spoke to anybody about. We’re speaking and we’re speaking loud.” This could be his true intention.
The movie “Indochine,” set in Saigon under the French occupation in the 1930s, is a period drama about the course of Vietnam’s liberation. Éliane and Vietnamese girl Camille fight over a French officer. When Camille says, “If I don’t marry him, I’ll die,” Éliane asks, “He loves you?” Camille answers, “He will. I’m sure of it.” Then Éliane asks again, “How can you be so sure?” Camille answers: “You wouldn’t understand. Nobody can understand,” she says.
I was reminded of the conversation as I write this column in the lobby on the first floor of the Meliá Hanoi, where Kim Jong-un will stay for the summit. Camille’s love was passionate but missed the mark. Denuclearization is no different: approaching it with vague love could miss the principle. One’s conviction is not enough — it takes some elaborate love. Trump said he fell in love with Kim. How will “love and denuclearization” in Hanoi end? I am looking forward to it.
JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 27, Page 30