One North Korea Negotiator's Advice For President Trump06:03
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A man watches a TV screen showing file footage of U.S. President Donald Trump, right, and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during a news program at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Monday, June 11, 2018.  Final preparations are underway in Singapore for Tuesday's historic summit between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim, including a plan for the leaders to kick things off by meeting with only their translators present, a U.S. official said. The signs read: "Summit between the United States and North Korea." (Ahn Young-joon/AP)MoreCloseclosemore
A man watches a TV screen showing file footage of U.S. President Donald Trump, right, and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during a news program at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Monday, June 11, 2018. Final preparations are underway in Singapore for Tuesday's historic summit between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim, including a plan for the leaders to kick things off by meeting with only their translators present, a U.S. official said. The signs read: "Summit between the United States and North Korea." (Ahn Young-joon/AP)

The clock is ticking down toward the historic summit between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore.

Trump needs to walk away from the meeting "with some sort of document," says Joel Wit, a former State Department official who's negotiated with Kim's representatives — and it must include the word "denuclearization."

"They can't walk away saying that they got to know each other and they're going to meet again," he says. "They have to have some substance."

Wit (@Joel_Wit38), a senior fellow at the Stimson Center and founder of 38 North, joins Here & Now's Robin Young to weigh in on how Trump should approach the negotiations and what North Korea might want out of them.

Interview Highlights

On Trump saying he will know "within the first minute" whether Kim is serious

"That strikes me as public posturing. I mean, how many presidents have gone into meetings with dictators and come out and said they read them within a minute? I mean, a lot have — George Bush said he read [Russian President Vladimir] Putin in a minute. So, you know, I think that's public posturing, and the point is when you sit down, you're not going to know within a minute whether you have some sort of connection to the other guy. But I think what President Trump will know ahead of time is, what is the shape of the deal? Because it will have been worked out ahead of time."

"I don't think anyone would trust what they say or trust anyone who's been an adversary for as long as they have. I don't think there's been one U.S. government that has been that naive in dealing with the North Koreans."

Joel Wit

On what North Korea might want out of a deal

"This is North Korea 101: Those of us who have talked to the North Koreans understand what they want. They say they want U.S. hostile policy lifted — that means recognizing them as a country, it means diplomatic relations, it means dealing with their security concerns, and that means ending the Korean War with a peace treaty. And it means lifting the economic sanctions and other restrictions on them. So all of those things are what the North Koreans want from us, and I think a summit document will have to talk about how the U.S. has agreed to end its hostile policy and move forward on those different fronts."

On whether things have changed in North Korea

"This is one of the misconceptions about North Korea, that it's this hermit kingdom that's been static for the past 30, 40 years. And the fact is if [Kim's grandfather] Kim Il Sung was alive today and looked around North Korea, he wouldn't recognize a lot of it — particularly the economy, which has changed from a tightly directed socialist economy to one that is now a mix of socialism and capitalism. The social system has not changed as much, and the political system of course is still tightly controlled."

On trusting North Korea's potential promises

"I wouldn't trust what they say, and I don't think anyone would trust what they say or trust anyone who's been an adversary for as long as they have. I don't think there's been one U.S. government that has been that naive in dealing with the North Koreans. So of course, this gets to the issue of verifying whatever's agreed to, and that goes without saying. We are going to have to verify all the agreements we reach with them."

This segment aired on June 11, 2018.

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