Inderjeet Parmar, a professor of international politics at City, University of London, went as far as to say that “Trump’s goal of totally de-nuking North Korea is impossible.”
The CIA agrees.
Even Trump himself appeared to water down expectations last month.
“It’s a process,” he told reporters. “We’re not going to go in and sign something on June 12, and we never were.”
What makes this a particularly high-stakes summit is the potential price of failure.
Not only could Trump and Kim fail to make progress, their relationship could deteriorate fast and take the region with it.
“Worst case is that the two leaders backslide into the exchange of personal insults,” said Robert Kelly, professor of political science and diplomacy at Pusan National University in South Korea.
Some analysts worry about the unpredictability of putting Trump, a man never shy of speaking his mind, in the same room as Kim, a young, ruthless autocrat who has killed members of his own family to consolidate his grip on power.
Lankov, the professor at Kookmin University, imagined how things could go wrong.
“No compromise is reached, one of the two major participants storms out of room, and tensions began to mount again, resulting in a military conflict at some point next year,” he said.
A third way
Many experts feel the outcome of the summit will be something rather more mundane.
“The realistic best case is a summit meeting that happens on schedule, doesn’t break up early, and delivers a joint statement,” according to Joshua H. Pollack, who is also a senior research associate at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey.
Pollack believes the risk of summit meltdown was reduced with the diplomatic toing and froing that accompanied its cancellation and subsequent reinstatement.
“This episode seems to have helped to acquaint the two sides with each other’s positions, as opposed to their wishful thinking about each other, and reduced everyone’s expectations for the meeting to something more realistic,” he said.
While few expect full CVID, the North could agree to an official stop of weapons tests, and later a partial surrender of its nuclear weapons and related material and equipment.
The two sides could also agree to hold further talks, building a road map to eventual denuclearization — although they may still disagree on what “denuclearization” actually means.