President Trump will visit “Little Rocket Man” but many worry his efforts to end the North Korean crisis may fail to launch anything meaningful.
The administration earned praise in some circles after the South Korea said Trump was ready to meet with Pyongyang’s Kim Jong Un by May, offering hope that a relationship best known for threats of mass destruction may reach a diplomatic breakthrough.
A statement from the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, which received the Nobel Prize after slamming the nuclear-laced threats between Trump and Kim, praised them for “achieving history dialogue between the US and North Korea, which is the only pathway to nuclear disarmament in the face of fire and fury.”
But others were less hopeful that the leaders meeting each other in real life, rather than behind their computer screens, would lead to any lasting change to the weapons programs that have made North Korea an international pariah.
RELATED: US-North Korea relations escalate in 1968
US-North Korea relations escalate in 1968
US-North Korea relations escalate in 1968
(Original Caption) 12/23/1968-Pammunjom, South Korea- Commander Lloyd Bucher, (L) captain of the captured U.S. intelligence ship, 'Pueblo,' leaves a press conference at a base camp near Pammunjom following his and his crew's release from North Korea after eleven months of captivity. Bucher is accompanied by U.S. Navy Public Information Officer, Captain Vince Thomas, (center), and a military policeman.
Commander Lloyd E. Bucher (left, back to the wall), commanding officer of the USS Pueblo, a Navy ship captured by North Korea in the Sea of Japan in 1968, answers questions during a naval court of inquiry. January 24, 1969. His counsel, E. Miles Harvey and Captain James E. Keyes, sit at a nearby table (right). (Photo by Nord Petersen/Library of Congress/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images)
PYONGYANG, NORTH KOREA - APRIL 20: North Korean navy ratings guard the USS Pueblo, an American spy ship, on the river Taedong in central Pyongyang 16 April 2001. The ship was attacked and captured in January 1968 and the crew held for 11 months. It has now become a symbol of a new anti-US propaganda battle. According to North Korean state media, growing numbers of people visit the ship to show their anger at US policy toward the communist state. AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read TIM WITCHER/AFP/Getty Images)
Crew members of the US Navy spy ship 'USS Pueblo' cross the Bridge of No Return between North and South Korea, after their release into US custody, 23rd December 1968. They had been seized by North Korean forces on 23rd January of the same year. Official US Navy Photo by PH2 T. K. Reynolds, USNR. (Photo by Pictorial Parade/Archive Photos/Getty Images)
(Original Caption) Comdr. Lloyd Bucher, the Pueblo's captain, appears at a press conference in Pyongyang, North Korea, 9/12/68. At the press conference, members of the Pueblo's crew explained the ship's mission and described its capture. The newsfilm from which these pictures were made was shot by the North Korean news agency.
(Original Caption) Major General Pak Chung Kuk, North Korean Army, across table from Rear Admiral John V. Smith, U.S. Navy, during 262nd meeting of the Armistice Commission.
Korean Guard looks out window with binoculars. | Location: Pamunjom, Korea.
(Original Caption) President Johnson confers with Defense Secretary McNamara during a meeting of the National Security Council at the Executive Mansion 1/24, in this photo released by the White House. The Council discussed the seizure on the high seas of the USS Pueblo by North Korea.
(Original Caption) As the news came in that President Johnson had ordered 14,787 Air Force and Navy Reservists to active duty January 25th, William D. Jackson of Brooklyn (right) entered the US Air Force recruiting station at Times Square and talked about enlisting. Chatting with him is Technical Sgt. Steven L. Ramirez. The United States called, January 25th, for an urgent meeting of the United Nations Security Council to consider 'the grave situation' arising from the seizure of the intelligence ship 'Pueblo' by North Korea.
Algerian Ambassador to the United nations Tewfik Bouattoura (left) listens during a UN Security Council meeting addressing the international inicdent involving North Korea's capture of an alleged American spy boat, the USS Pueblo (AGER-2), New York, New York, late January 1968. (Photo by Al Fenn/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)
The U.S.Aircraft carrier ENTERPRISE, 75,700 tons, the world's largest warship which carries about 100 planes, and which is reported to be sailing towards North Korea following the seizure of America's spy ship 'Pueblo' in international waters. (Photo by PA Images via Getty Images)
Officers and crew of the United States Navy ship USS Pueblo being led away after being captured by North Korean forces in international waters in the Sea of Japan during the Vietnam War.
(Original Caption) Senator J. William Fulbright (D-Arkansas), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, following a 3-hour meeting of his committee 1/24, said a decision on whether to order a full scale investigation into the Tonkin Gulf attack had been postponed. Fulbright said he felt the Administration should 'be very careful' in its response to North Korea's seizure of the USS Pueblo.
NORTH KOREA - JANUARY 01: North Korea. Discovery of weapons and bodies of a United Nations commando force which entered illegally into North Korea. (Photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)
(Original Caption) 1/2/1968-Along the Western Truce Front, Korea- U.S. troops manning the western tip of 151-mile Korean truce front have recently completed a 15-mile fence as part of a new security system along the Korean Demilitarized Zone. Constructed of iron poles and barbed wire, the fence- it is hoped -will keep North Koreans from smuggling agents into the South.
Commander Lloyd Bucher is greeted by his wife, Cindy, upon returning from captivity in North Korea. He and his crew aboard the USS Pueblo were captured in January 1968. (Photo by James L. Amos/Corbis via Getty Images)
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South Korean officials who brokered the meeting said that Kim had “committed to denuclearization,” though others raised the possibility that the meeting would just be a PR coup for Pyongyang.
“There is no way that President Trump can be ready by May to have a high-stakes negotiation on denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula. It’s just impossible,” said Samantha Vinograd, a former official at the Obama administration’s National Security Council.
She told CNN that Kim was “playing to the President’s ego and the president's weaknesses by flattering him.”
Analysts noted that the Kim dynasty has long been looking for a summit with the American president as a symbol of equality with another nuclear power.
“Summits normally come at the end of a long series of negotiations at lower levels in which lots of devils in the details r hammered out. Trump, always the publicity-seeker, is just diving right in,” Robert Kelly, a professor at Pusan National University in South Korea and North Korea expert, said on Twitter.
He noted that Bill Clinton came close to visiting North Korea only after five years of negotiations, a process the memory of which now reminds the world of how the situation on the peninsula has festered for decades.
“I’m sorry, do we not remember how awful that photo of [then Secretary of State Madeleine] Albright toasting Kim Jong Il was?” said U.S. Naval War College professor Tom Nichols, who added that she was heavily criticized for it.
“This trap is so obvious even Wile E. Coyote wouldn't walk into it,” he added.
Even sometimes supporters of the President were wary about what would actually come of the meeting.
“I understand if the past is an indication of the future, North Korea will be all talk and no action, Sen. Lindsey Graham said, though he added that he thinks the Kim regime believes Trump’s military threats.
The Republican from South Carolina made his own threat, however, and said, “The worst possible thing you can do is meet with President Trump in person and try to play him.”
“If you do that, it will be the end of you and your regime.”