It feels like only a short time ago that President Donald Trump was insulting North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, engaging in name calling and threats everywhere from Twitter to the floor of the United Nations.
And yet, on Monday, CNN’s Jim Acosta tweeted an image of a commemorative coin that marks the potential upcoming U.S.-North Korea summit.
There’s now a White House Military Office coin for the upcoming Trump Kim Jong Un summit. The North Korean dictator is referred to as “Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un.” pic.twitter.com/tFAmE813Y1
— Jim Acosta (@Acosta) May 21, 2018
There are three problems with that, though:
The summit has not yet happened. The summit might not happen, as Kim has serious reservations about U.S. demands. Kim’s title is not “Supreme Leader,” as indicated on the coin. While probably flattering, that is the title of Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. As The Week points out, Kim’s actual title, “Dear Respected Comrade Kim Jong Un, Chairman of the Workers’ Party of Korea, Chairman of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Supreme Commander of the Korean People’s Army” is too long. Still, “Respected Comrade” or “Chairman” seems more accurate.
So, why the coin?
Well, the optics on the Trump administration’s foreign policy have never been great, but these past couple of weeks have been especially bad, with the moving of the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem culminating in horrific, deadly violence in Gaza and the president violating the multilateral 2015 Iran nuclear deal by pulling out and promising to snap back sanctions on Iran.
Both incidents resulted in major international outcry and, in the case of the U.S. embassy move, condemnation by rights groups and member states at the United Nations.
Amid all of this, President Trump has been taking a great deal of pride in the progress made in the deescalation of tensions on the Korean Peninsula, with North Korea indicating it is ready for talks over its nuclear and ballistic missile programs. Trump even went so far as to demand that South Korean President Moon Jae-in — who has been doing the heavy lifting on this — give him credit for the progress.
But almost as soon as Moon managed to calm the waters with North Korean leader Kim in late April, Trump took to Fox & Friends, overselling what Kim was willing to give up — without even being asked. Then, his National Security Adviser John Bolton said Kim would have to follow the “Libya model” of denuclearization (never mind that the country’s leader Muammar Gaddafi was killed in the streets and the country is currently in total chaos).
This did not go over well in Pyongyang, where the response was swift and furious, indicating that North Korea “will no longer be interested in such dialogue” under such circumstances.
With the summit originally planned for June in question now, the administration is trying to hold on to anything that looks like a win, signalling on all levels — from White House Spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders saying the United States is still “hopeful,” to Trump straight up contradicting Bolton on the Libya model comments — that they’re keen for some kind of meeting.
And if all else fails, well, there’s the coin.