North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is “in the driver’s seat at the moment,” Wendy Sherman the former chief US nuclear negotiator with Iran who also advised President Bill Clinton on North Korea told CNN.
“He has been able to get the President of the United States – the most powerful leader in the world – to sit in the same room as him as if he is an equal,” Sherman told Christiane Amanpour. “So he’s already achieved a major objective, from his perspective.”
President Donald Trump agreed last week to meet with Kim by May, in what would be the first talks between a sitting US president and a North Korean leader. South Korea’s national security adviser, Chung Eui-yong, who delivered the invitation to Trump after a visit by his delegation to Pyongyang, said Kim had offered to put Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile program on the table.
Sherman, who served as special adviser to President Clinton on North Korea, traveled to the country with then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in 2000. Sherman said that while she did not believe Kim is “in any rush to denuclearize,” she was glad the US is entering into talks, even if it just starts with “a meeting.”
“Talk is certainly better than war,” she said.
Nonetheless, Sherman cautioned that if approached incorrectly, a diplomatic effort ending in failure could become a “pretense” for war.
The “greatest risk,” she said, is “that the President and his team give this an effort, but because they don’t get every single thing that they want that they say it’s hopeless, and really create the prerequisite for war.”
“There are lots of choices that are going to have to be made, and if the President feels that they all have to go the way that the United States wants them to go, we probably won’t get to an agreement – and we probably will find ourselves at war,” Sherman said.