Donald Trump loves delegating. He has the secretary of defense deciding troop levels in Afghanistan, his daughter pinch-hitting at meetings, and his son-in-law handling the Middle East, Mexico, China, criminal justice reform, and the opioid crisis. Now, former president Jimmy Carter has given Trump a way to hand off the de-escalation of tensions with North Korea, too: Send him.
“I would go, yes,” Carter told Maureen Dowd (paywall), who wrote that the 93-year-old former president is eager to work with Trump on the issue. When Dowd said that many in Washington were concerned about the rhetoric between Trump and Kim Jong-un, he said he was “afraid, too, of a situation. I don’t know what they’ll do. Because they want to save their regime. And we greatly overestimate China’s influence on North Korea. Particularly to Kim Jong-un. He’s never, so far as I know, been to China. And they have no relationship. Kim Jong-il did go to China and was very close to them.”
There is some precedent here. In 1994, North Korea had ousted investigators from the International Atomic Energy Agency and was staring down possible US sanctions over its threats to accelerate its nuclear program. Carter flew to Pyongyang to reach an agreement with Kim Il-sung; a version of that framework was later signed by the Clinton White House (though it would eventually collapse in the George W. Bush administration).
Carter told Dowd that he is more worried about Kim Jong-un than he had been his father, Kim Jong-il. “I think he’s now got advanced nuclear weaponry that can destroy the Korean Peninsula and Japan, and some of our outlying territories in the Pacific, maybe even our mainland,” Carter said.
In June, Carter sat next to H.R. McMaster, Trump’s national security advisor and a friend, at the funeral of Zbigniew Brzezinski, who had been Carter’s national security advisor. “I told [McMaster] that I was available if they ever need me,” Carter recalled to Dowd. So far, he hasn’t heard back.
That could be because Trump is not a fan. In 2013, he tweeted that Carter had been considered the worst president in US history (until, of course, Barack Obama).