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News Front Page Cafe: The Trump-Kim summit

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Front Page Cafe & The Green

President Trump's potential sit-down with North Korea's Kim Jong Un could help solve what journalist Mark Bowden calls "the worst problem on Earth."

Or not. High-powered summits called on short notice when tensions are high don't have a great track record. Stuart Kaufman, University of Delaware professor of political science and international relations, had only to point to President John Kennedy and Russian Premier Nikita Khrushchev's meeting in1961, which “went so well, the result was the Cuban Missile Crisis.”

The two experts led a packed Front Page Cafe on April 16 through the ups and downs, along with the ins and outs, of what a Trump-Kim summit could mean for denuclearization hopes.

If you couldn't be there, you can still listen in, thanks to a partnership with Delaware Public Media. The conversation was recorded for an edition of The Green, an open-air meeting place for Delawareans to discuss events, consider issues and share ideas. You can listen to the full evening here. We've also shared the UDaily story below.

The Green airs at 3 and 7 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. Sunday on WMPH 91.7 in Wilmington and WDDE 91.1 in Dover. Delaware Public Media is always online at

If you'd like to join us at Front Page Cafe, we'd be delighted to add you to our mailing list. Send your email address to The Journalism Program.  Front Page Cafes are always free and open to the public, and refreshments are always served.

Experts urge caution on Korea
Professor Stuart Kaufman and journalist Mark Bowden

​Dr. Stuart Kaufman, UD professor of political science and international relations, and journalist Mark Bowden, best-selling author of "Hue: 1968," agreed on one positive aspect of a potential Trump-Kim summit: Neither leader is suicidal. UDaily photo/Eric Ruth.

By Artika Rangan Casini

What does the United States stand to gain by negotiating with North Korea? Not nearly as much as it has to lose, two experts suggested on Monday, April 16.

The staffs of President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un are negotiating a meeting. But a summit between two adversaries on short notice rarely works out well, said University of Delaware Professor Stuart Kaufman. He recalled the 1961 meeting between President John Kennedy and Russian Premier Nikita Khrushchev, which “went so well, the result was the Cuban Missile Crisis.”  

Kaufman discussed the escalating global tensions at the Deer Park Tavern as part of a “Front Page Café” event co-sponsored by the Journalism program and the Departments of Political Science and International Relations. He spoke alongside veteran journalist and former UD faculty member Mark Bowden, whose July 2017 cover story for The Atlantic explored “How to deal with North Korea,” and found no good options—though “some are worse than others.”

Referring to the North Koreans, Bowden said, the United States could “wipe out their regime, destroy their arsenal, defeat their military. But then the world would be left with the largest humanitarian tragedy in modern times.

“If you thought Iraq was difficult to govern,” he continued, “imagine a mountainous country with pockets of loyalists in possession of weapons—possibly dirty, biological ones.”

Professor Stuart Kaufman and journalist Mark Bowden

​Dr. Stuart Kaufman, who calls himself Dr. Doom-and-Gloom, shares a lighter moment with journalist Mark Bowden. UDaily photo/Eric Ruth.

Kaufman, who jokingly referred to himself as Dr. Doom-and-Gloom, presented his own “most optimistic possible scenario, if the U.S. were to bomb North Korea,” in which the response would include conventional or even chemical weapons, not nukes.

Both agreed, with measured optimism, that the stakes are too high for either side to start a nuclear war.

As Bowden put it, “It’s contrary to his own interests for Kim Jong-un to trigger a nuclear option.”

“North Korea has played the same game very well for 40 years—not by luck and not by being crazy, but by being rational,” said Kaufman. “[Jong-un] wants to breathe and he wants to rule, and he just wants the United States to accept him.”

But what that means for a meeting between the leaders is yet to be determined.

“In principle, you make threats to get the other side to the table, and then negotiate,” Kaufman said. “In reality, there’s no chance they’ll give up their nuclear arsenal. And if North Korea thinks we’re going to institute a regime change, they have no reason for restraint.”

And though “the idea that [Trump and Kim] would talk is hopeful,” Bowden worried of America “getting played” on the world stage.

“This meeting is being orchestrated by Pyongyang,” he said, “not by Washington.”

Mark Bowden, Stuart Kaufman

​Author Mark Bowden and scholar Stuart Kaufman

Front Page Cafe

Time: 5:30 p.m.
: Monday, April 16, 2018
Place: Upstairs at the Deer Park Tavern, 108 Main St., Newark

The North Korea folder

Mark Bowden: Author and national correspondent for The Atlantic. His most recent article on North Korea was "A Trump-Kim Summit: 'Why the Hell Not?,'" in which he writes that the possible summit is a good news/bad news situation: The two sides may finally talk to each other, but President Trump plans to do it himself.

Dr. Stuart Kaufman: Professor of courses in international security affairs, diplomacy, U.S. foreign policy, ethnic conflict and Russian politics. He won a UD Excellence in Scholarship Award in 2017 and published the award-winning Nationalist Passions in 2015.

Story published on 6/2/2018 ; last modified on
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UD experts Stuart Kaufman and Mark Bowden walk the Front Page Cafe through the pros and cons of a Trump-Kim summit. One pro: Neither leader is suicidal.

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Front Page Cafe: The Trump-Kim summit
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