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Historic handshake.
EYES ON THE PRIZE

Ahead of the second Trump-Kim summit a Nobel Peace Prize is on somebody’s mind

Steve Mollman
By Steve Mollman

Weekend editor

Donald Trump is slated to meet with Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam next week (Feb. 27-28), in the second summit between the leaders of the US and North Korea. One thing that’s clearly on Trump’s mind ahead of the meeting: a Nobel Peace Prize.

In a Feb. 15 press conference, Trump boasted that Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe nominated him for “a thing called the Nobel Prize.” Abe, Trump said, “had missiles flying over Japan…Now all of the sudden they feel good, they feel safe. I did that.”

Shortly after his remarks, a major newspaper in Japan, the Asahi Shimbun, reported that the White House itself had “informally” requested that Abe nominate Trump.

At an April 2018 rally, Trump basked onstage while his supporters chanted “Nobel, Nobel, Nobel” in an apparently spontaneous act. “That’s very nice, thank you. That’s very nice,” he told them, flashing a wide smile.

That same month, South Korean president Moon Jae-in said Trump deserved the prize. Trump responded that Moon’s statement was, again, “very nice.” Observers surmised Moon was playing to Trump’s ego.

On Feb. 15, Trump said of his predecessor Barack Obama, “I believe he would have gone to war with North Korea…And where are we now? No missiles, no rockets, no nuclear testing.” Thanks to Trump, of course.

He then complained that Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009 without really deserving it, and moaned that he, despite his accomplishments, “will probably never get it.”

But he clearly wants it—a helpful thing to keep in mind. At the summit, expect Nobel-friendly optics and statements from the US president, but not much pushing on human rights or democratic reforms. As for denuclearization, he told reporters this week (paywall), “as long as there’s no testing, I’m in no rush.”

That’s convenient, because, testing aside, North Korea has shown little sign of discontinuing its nuclear program, and many believe it will never agree to completely denuclearize. Meanwhile it remains one of world’s most brutal regimes.

Still, history may judge that Trump did indeed blunder and bluster his way to some sort of progress on North Korea. No matter what happens at the summit, he likely will claim victory as usual. For better or worse, he has his eyes on the prize.