Energy Calculations of a Trump-Kim Meeting

Energy summit? Russia’s Vladimir Putin proposes to South Korean President Moon Jae-in a gas pipeline for North and South Korea; Russia constructs a gas pipeline in the Far East

Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump surprised the world after the first man suggested a meeting and the second one agreed – “only an atypical leader who revels in disruption could turn affairs upside down, making the unthinkable thinkable,” notes Joergen Oerstroem Moeller, former state-secretary with the Royal Danish Foreign Ministry and a visiting senior fellow with the ISEAS Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore. “Yet calculations on energy may be driving overtures among South Korea, North Korea and Trump, and sanctions may have forced Kim to change track because leaders cannot disregard public hardship for long without the risk of discontent.” Assessing the motivations of such leaders requires speculation. China and Russia have cooperated on building natural gas pipelines in Eastern Siberia, and Russia’s Vladimir Putin has raised the possibility of extending a pipeline into the Korea Peninsula. The United States also would like to sell gas to South Korea. Much has changed since the end of World War II and Korea’s division. Kim attended schools in the West, enjoys internet access, reads up on US current events and may worry about over-dependence on China. Newly armed with nuclear missiles, North Korea’s leader may assume that his negotiating leverage, balancing US and Russian interests, is as good as it gets. – YaleGlobal