The Trump-Kim summit was doomed at conception due to irreconcilable differences. Trump seeks permanent verifiable nuclear disarmament while Kim fears that without nuclear weapons to elevate his status at home he may end up like Ceaușescu and without a credible threat abroad he might be overwhelmed like Gaddafi.
To uphold his promise to the American people, Trump may soon be forced to target Kim’s nuclear missile sites. However, there is another option that has not been discussed publicly.
Removing Kim and reunifying Korea would eliminate the nuclear threat. Although assassinating state leaders is prohibited by international law and US executive order, there is no authority to prevent their removal through sanctions and incentives.
Sanctions and incentives are opposite sides of the same coercive diplomatic coin. Just as sanctions often target elites, Trump could target incentives to the North Korean elite to remove Kim from power.
Kim’s power depends on a small cadre of elites he manages like employees in an extended crime family business. What if a fund was established to reward these elites for reunifying Korea?
Ordinarily this would be paying the enemy, but since the death of Kim Jong-il a new generation has been empowered who are innocent of the crimes of their forefathers. They are younger and more pragmatic; most would choose freedom and prosperity over their current tenuous situation.
One can imagine Kim’s insecurity standing before the Supreme People’s Assembly if it were understood that everyone sitting in the first seven rows would get $20 million and everyone else in the auditorium at least $5 million if he were removed from power. Kim would have no choice but to acquiesce.
To give Kim a diplomatic way out of this predicament he must be promised: 1) amnesty from punishment; 2) that he may keep his money; and 3) receive some credit for uniting and denuclearizing Korea; or 4) Trump would pay elites to remove him from power.
The logic of leverage in organized crime and power politics is similar: make an offer they cannot refuse. Despite his publicized faults, Trump demands results (or you’re fired) and this might make him the right person at this moment in history to protect the world from nuclear proliferation and expand democracy and freedom in East Asia.