August 11, 2022

On “legitimacy”: Trump, Kim, and U.S.-North Korea summitry

Concerns of a PR coup for the DPRK underestimate how crucial leader-to-leader diplomacy really is

You could hear the complaints almost before Trump and Kim had turned back around to face southward. “Meeting the leader of North Korea like this just gives him legitimacy”; “The U.S. President is legitimizing Kim Jong Un”; “Kim gets legitimacy while Trump just gets a photo op,” etc. etc.

This not-uncommon hot take has been rolled out before and after every Trump-Kim meeting. “Legitimacy” in these assertions might mean three things: one is dead wrong, one is slightly true, and the other is true.