North Korea expert: Trump and Kim both 'master disruptors' ahead of summit

As President Trump arrives for the historic summit with Kim Jong Un, the "This Week" panel discusses what to expect in Singapore.
21:42 | 06/10/18

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Transcript for North Korea expert: Trump and Kim both 'master disruptors' ahead of summit
Where the world will soon see something that's never happened before. A sitting American president face to face with the leader of North Korea. Two unpredictable men making an unprecedented choice. The fallout from the summit will be felt across the region, around the world. The outcome is anyone's guess. As you can see, it's Sunday evening here in Singapore. Exactly 36 hours from the moment Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un will shake hands and begin their talks. And the president arrived here moments ago. You see him there stepping off air force one. He says he feels good about what is coming next. This was just hours after Kim Jong-un, you'll see him there, as well. Welcomed by Singapore's minister of foreign affairs. And this already secure country locked down even more. Teeming with security. The president has acknowledged this is unknown territory. He's arriving here with high hopes. I really feel confident. I feel that Kim Jong-un wants to do something great for his people. And he has that opportunity. And he won't have that opportunity again. This is a great opportunity. For peace. And lasting peace. And prosperity. But trump is reaching out to one of America's longest standing enemies, after a dramatic break with our oldest allies. He left the g7 summit in Canada early after tough threats on tariffs and trade. That photo released by German chancellor Angela Merkel captures the tension in the room. And Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau promised a fight ahead. Canadians, we're polite, we're reasonable. But we also will not be pushed around. What a turn of events. Seeking peace with enemies, picking fights with friends. Donald Trump promised to do things in a brand-new way. And that's exactly what we're seeing right now. Head-spinning diplomacy with earth-shaking consequences. Our team is here to analyze it all. I'm joined by Martha Raddatz, Tom Bossert, our new ABC contributor. Who served as a national security adviser to president trump and George W. Bush. David Sanger, national security correspondent for "The New York Times" author of the new book "The perfect weapon." War sabotage and fear in the cyberage. And Jennifer Jacobs, white house correspondent for Bloomberg news. Welcome to all of you. You see our papers blowing around. We have wind up here as well. Let's begin with what we just saw there. The president coming off the g7. Allies united on North Korea. This is not the standard script heading into a summit like this. This kind of a break with the oldest allies. Absolutely not. And the name-calling. I have never heard anything like that with a U.S. President calling a U.S. Ally names. Calling him meek. Calling him all the things he wanted to call him. I think you're seeing Donald Trump in the second half of his presidency. People I have talked to who are close to the administration say this is what you're going to see in the future. The people who were whispering in Donald Trump's ears before, H.R. Mcmaster, his fired secretary of state Rex tillerson. Those people are gone. He's doing exactly what he wants to do, when he wants to do it. He's doing it his way. I think in the next 2 1/2 years, it won't just be a roller coaster, it will be a steam roller. Let's bring in Tom Bossert bauds you just left that white house. I did. And that has been a theme we have seen in recent weeks. The president really becoming his own man inside that oval office. Yeah, you know partly, we are. We're seeing him come into his own and feel a little bit more comfortable. We're seeing a return to the campaign trail. Right? This president is keeping promises he ran on. This conflict and opportunity is an extension. He's created a trade conflict. He'll maintain that pressure on China for their behavior. He'll do it in a way that no other president has done. While not appeasing beijing on their trade needs and moving into a security negotiation with North Korea. No president has done that. No president has been able to maintain that through the talks. So far, this president has. The president comes here in to Singapore for the summit. We're seeing a managing of the expectations. Very optimistic yesterday in Canada. Earlier in the week and coming into this, he described the meeting much more as just a getting to know you meeting. Kind of lowering the expectations. He's made this a little bit hard for himself. From the beginning of his presidency, he's said he'll solve this problem. He said every previous president has kicked it down the road. He's right. Every previous president did kick it down the road because the consequences of a conflict were so huge. The question now is, as he actually steps into the room with Kim, he's recognizing that this infrastructure that north Korea has built up over nearly half a century is so vast that the early, easy campaign talk that we're going to pack it up and send it to a weapons lab in Tennessee is not realistic. And then the question is, do you end up in a slow process where you're giving something, you're getting something. You get eaten away by the north Koreans the way every past president did. The question is, can he still call that a victory? That's what he's going the want to do coming out in Monday night in New York, Tuesday morning here. Jennifer, you have looked at how the president prepared. What to expect as the meeting unfolds. He wants a one on one, almost totally alone with Kim Jong-un. That's the plan right now. He'll go in one on one. According to the current plan. And when I say alone, there will be translators there. Kim has been speaking exclusively in Korean when talking to U.S. Officials in the preparations. Of course that big envelope letter was in Korean. So, we don't expect Kim will want to be in there just the two of them. The translators will be there. I'm told the president is not going to attempt to speak Korean. The translators will be there. I think the reason for the one on one, trump wants to get beyond the nicety. Beyond the diplomatic talk and he wants to get a feel for whether Kim Jong-un can be trusted. Whether he's telling the truth. He thinks that he's got this guy wired. That he and Pompeo and Andrew Kim have figured out what motivates Kim. They know he wants security guarantees. That he wants a legacy very similar to the president. He wants a legacy for himself and the Kim family. So, he really wants -- he said to us in Canada, I'll know in the first minute if this guy is serious about wanting to get rid of his nuclear arsenal. Let's broaden out the conversation and bring in an expert on Kim. Dr. Jung Pak is joining us. The head of Korean studies at the Brookings institute. Served several years in our intelligence community. Dr. Jung, talk about that. The motivation for Kim Jong-un. What to expect from him. I find it hard to imagine Kim giving up his nuclear weapons. We talked about legacy. I think that, for Kim, the if we believe Kim, he's completed something his grandfather started and his father up nurtured. And for him to give that up would be the height of betrayal to his country and his grandfather's legacy. I think we have to square that circle to believe that Kim is really willing to give up his weapons. What more do we know about his preparation, Dr. Pak. Whether he'll speak any enenglish to Donald Trump and how off-script he's likely to go. If anything, the two leaders meeting tomorrow will be -- are -- master disrupters, in many ways. Where they go offscript. I'll point to the inter-korean summit when Kim and moon met at the border. Kim, you know, pulled president moon across to the other side. Breaking a highly orchestrated event. And really, for that split second, taking control of that moment. And president trump is -- is the same way. Or very similar in that way. We have two master disrupters in the room. And I think it's going to be really interesting to see what the two can glean from each other in the first couple of seconds. That's right. Tom Bossert, as Dr. Pak was talking, it made me think of the first meeting between the French president and president trump. And that handshake that went on forever. Yeah. You see -- you have the feeling that both men going into that Tuesday meeting will be trying to figure out the other. Gain an advantage. I think it's good reporting that there will be a private meeting first. A number of experts have said take the north Korean leader aside and try to develop a rapport, as if it's possible. I understand that some believe it's not. I think it's worth noting, past leaders, past people have tried these things for different purposes under different conditions. The practices that have brought us to this port of pressure have been coalition and not american-led. And I think it's important to note that. And Martha, this is breaking script in another way. Usually, summits like this come after months, years of preparation. The sherpas laying all of this ground work. This one is really a top-down process. Yeah. He's just thrown out the book on all of that. In some respects, because the summit was canceled at some point, the diplomats could come in and make deals. Starting at the top, I think what you'll see, whatever they have, whatever low bar they have, then you'll have the work proceed after that. But they've learned so much about him, George. Think about it. Before this, before these last couple of months with Mike Pompeo. I think the only American who had really talked to Kim Jong-un was Dennis rodman. Now, history's already been made tonight. We have got him here tonight in Singapore. Kim Jong-un. Who no one had talked to before, right down the street. And David Sanger, Kim Jong-un is in this position because he accelerated the nuclear program. Because he accelerated his nuclear program, the missile program. He put the technology together. He convinced the United States he would soon be able to strike any American city. He's not quite there yet. It might take a few years. If it wasn't for that, he wouldn't have the leverage he has got today. That gets to the question, George, of -- what do you actually think could come out of this tomorrow? And, now on Tuesday. And I think the answer is that the president has begun to turn toward his thoughts of a piece treaty before he gets to the thought of what would complete verifiable, irreversible denuclearization look like? One of the concerns here is that the president might lose sight of the denuclearization points because he's entranced at the point of being the person to bring peace to the Korean peninsula is a big deal. He says he's prepared to walk out. But he doesn't want to. Absolutely. I think his strategist said, he will walk out. If he's not getting a good vibe, his intention really is. He studied hard and planned for this. He admitted that in the rose garden press conference the other day. Pompeo walked him through strategy personally. Talked about Kim's personality. Talked about different talking points that he could use. The president is prepared for this. As prepared as he can be, I think. He wants this. I know from talking to his administration officials is that Obama is an echo in his mind right now. On inauguration day. President Obama said, the biggest threat that you're going to face is North Korea. And trump wants to come out of this with a deal. I talked to the president a couple of times about this. It's clear that the meeting he had with president Obama a few day after the election win had a deep impact on him. It really sobered him up. I'm sure you felt that. I can confirm that. From the very beginning. Part of the analysis on his preparation has been focused on the short term. He's been in a sense I think secretary Pompeo said he's been preparing for this almost from the first week in office. He's been taking almost a daily briefing. He had to. As much as we talk about other presidents who didn't do much and didn't solve this problem. In effect, they didn't have to. Donald Trump had to solve this problem because of the profession Kim Jong-un has made. Because of the fact that he has one now or very soon could have a nuclear weapon that could reach the United States. And clearly put more pressure on Kim Jong-un. By all that blustery talk at the beginning of his term. Dr. Pak, again right now, Dr. Pak, we know that Kim Jong-un is running one of the most brutal police states in the world right now. He uses assassination as a tool. He uses forced starvation. Is there any prospect that coming out of the meeting he's open to changing his ways? Or is that just not on the table? You know, I think, one of the reasons that North Korea comes out so viciously against any talk about human rights. Any criticism about North Korea human right violations is because repression is a requirement for reinforcing the regime. Why do people go to these gulags or to these prison camps? It's because they speak ill of the Kim family. Or they're not sufficiently reverent enough or they speak out against the regime. Or they engage in marked activities that regime says is not acceptable. So I think, repression is a part of North Korea's regime identity. They need it for the -- to make sure that the Kim dynasty remains. That's why the north Koreans are so viciously against any talk about human rights. Now, if -- that said, if Kim is really sincere about giving up his nuclear weapons and really doing a strategic pivot, that would be a sign post to look at to see if Kim is sincere. But so far, we have yet to see any big changes in the way Kim conducts his own domestic governance policies. And David Sanger, the big incenter for Kim here, economic growth, economic aid. The idea of bringing North Korea into the modern world. So -- the balancing act, George, that he has to do is on the one hand, he knows he needs more of this development if he's going to rule Korea for a long time. He's only 34 years old. He could imagine staying in power for 40 years as his grandfather did. He also can't imagine staying in power without those nuclear weapons. Because in the back of his mind, he nose that it's the existence of those weapons that is the only reason people pay attention to North Korea. Back off from North Korea. And keep North Korea from collapsing. He would like to make this an arms control talk. I'll give you some, but not all. And the question, Tom Bossert, one, is that enough of a victory for president trump and the United States? Is it a victory for the world? What goals do you expect the president and his team to put on the table here? I think that is important. I believe the scope is bigger and the stakes are higher. I think that whether either leader believes it to be the case that going into this and coming out of this summit, we're looking at the potential realignment of American interests and American presence in the region and maybe the world. The Korean conflict and war and long-standing armistice has been the reflection of -- or been emblematic of what this president ran against. Or at least ran to recalibrate. I don't think he ran to withdraw troops from around the world. As has been reported. I think his instinct is to recalibrate. What comes out of this will be bigger than an arms race. It's probably than the denuclearized conversation on the peninsula. It has to do with American troop presence in the region. The west pacific might hang in the balance. That's if there's a success right there. Martha, one of the things we also have to address, if this fails, we have very few other options right now. The military option front and center one more time. It always is. We have heard president trump talk about that a lot. They've cheerily not backed off. But we're not hearing anything about the military anymore. What you see here and what we'll have here is some success. It's like planting a seed. We won't know for a long time whether there's actually success from this. Even if they start talking about denuclearization. It takes a long time to make that happen. It takes a long time to prove that it actually did. The president's salesmanship will be tested as well. Can he redefine denuclearization will be one of the questions, I guess. Yeah. He'll figure out some way to come out of this successfully. He and Kim both love theatrics, hyperbole. Military parades. And big cheering crowds. They have a lot of things in common. Think they'll probably strategize something. I know the president intends to go in and try to reassure Kim that the U.S. Will protect, he'll say protect and that Japan and China will be there to cover their financials, help them financially, if need be. He'll go in with reassurances. They'll come out with something. I have a feeling we'll see something about the technical end of the Korean war, after these some 65 years. There will be something solid. David, you described it as arms control. Not getting rid of the weapons. If you're dealing with arms control, that's not all that different from the 1994 agreement that president Clinton got or the process of George W. Bush in 2005-2006. What will be different after this meeting? In 1994, North Korea had not yet exploded a nuclear weapon. Today, what the president has to do is get the north Korean, first, to turn over all those nuclear webs or dismantle them. Then he has to do something harder. Take apart the production facilities. Having complained that the Iran deal was a terrible deal. He has to do better than what Barack Obama got in the Iran deal. What did he get? He got 97% of the nuclear fuel out of the country. And got less than a bomb's worth of material still spinning. If the president doesn't get at least that, he hasn't met his own test. That will be a very hard -- It seems almost inconceivable to me that you -- that, Tom Bossert, you get anything close to the Iran deal at least anytime soon. I don't know. There's a little bit of a disagreement. There's a disjunctive candid conversation here. If I'm hearing you right. Getting rid of the 20 to 30 or more war heads would be a significant reduction. It would be a big reduction. I think that would be a big success. The second question is can we maintain the long tail of production capability to include the scientists that could re-create this. I think that takes the true presence to guarantee their security. I think there is only one failure that comes out of this. The failure is a lack of cohesion in this coalition. I mean, in other words, even if there is a fill your in the conversation. They walk out. They have a disagreement over their objectives, I think we have learned something there. I don't suggest that even failure is success. I suggest there is a learning opportunity here. If the president sees he's not serious, he's really saved us a lot of time, money, and effort. The difference between the Clinton era, bilateral -- it is laudable. This attempt is not just bilateral. He's looking for irreversible demonstrations of denuclearization. I want to bring the final question. George Bush didn't get to that point. They looked for a multilateral effort. They advanced under his watch. So sanctions didn't work. Multilateral approaches led by China didn't work. I think this president has a lot more in common with president Clinton in this regard. I do think coming out of this. Some experts have gotten it wrong. I said to you last week. Suggesting they can't take immediate and reversible steps -- What is success for Kim Jong-un? Is he ready to take those steps? I think Kim can rack up some successes already. He's met twice with president XI jinping of China. He's met twit with president moon of South Korea. He has president Asad from Syria looking to visit him in Pyongyang. And he has Putin, a potential meeting with Putin at some point in the future. I think just by virtue of making this engagement pivot and the U.S. President agreeing to meet with Kim, the spigot has been turned on for more engagement to boost Kim's legitimacy. So in that way, Kim can rack up that sort of win. And I think, for our part, think what's good is we have a de facto moratorium on missile tests and nuclear tests. We should take that. But also see how much we can push Kim on further -- concessions. You all have laid out the issues well. Thank you. We're back with senators Lindsey

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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