As the President makes his way to Vietnam today for his second summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, he has plenty of naysayers back home looking to minimize any progress being made on the Korean Peninsula. Liberal outlets such as Vice have been describing the second summit as looking like a waste of time since last month. To be sure, the process is open to criticism, particularly given Kim’s deceitful practices and the lack of any concrete moves toward denuclearization. But at the same time, North Korean state news is still trying to be upbeat about the meeting and they’re accusing the Democrats of trying to undermine the entire operation. (Reuters)

The North’s official KCNA news agency criticized U.S. Democrats and others for “plotting to disrupt” a second summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday and Thursday in Hanoi.

KCNA accused the Trump administration of “lending an ear” to opponents of dialogue, even after the United States launched diplomatic efforts with North Korea.

“If the upcoming DPRK-U.S. negotiations end without results as wished by the opponent forces, the U.S. people will never be cleared of the security threats that threw them into panic and then responsibility will be placed on those due,” KCNA said, referring to North Korea by the initials of its official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

North Korea may be primarily a hermit nation whose people are cut off from information and interaction with the rest of the world, but it’s obvious that their leaders keep a close eye on American politics and react to what’s going on over here. Trump may be dealing with a madman in these talks, but he’s a madman with a savvy messaging team working for him in the background.

We can’t simply ignore the obvious criticism of this summit, however. If your single goal for these negotiations is the complete denuclearization of North Korea (clearly the biggest goal we should have), there hasn’t been much in the way of progress thus far. And unless the President is prepared to go to Vietnam with an offer to start dropping sanctions and offering aid before Kim’s produced any meaningful progress – a bad idea, given his history of lying and breaking agreements – it doesn’t sound as if the North is ready to offer anything meaningful on their end.

So where does that leave us? As bad as it is for North Korea to have nukes and ICBMs, we also shouldn’t entirely ignore the progress that’s been made in other areas. By all accounts, North and South Korea are on the verge of officially ending the Korean War. They’ve been slowly opening up their borders and allowing more travel between the two countries. They may not be heading for reunification (which would likely be a very bad deal for the South), but if they can forge some sort of lasting peace out of this mess than that will certainly be a worthy accomplishment.

Unfortunately, without more progress on what the rest of the west wants, we may still wind up with Kim as a somewhat legitimized national leader who is still an unwanted member of the nuclear club. If anyone sees a way around that eventuality without our having to turn Pyongyang into a smoldering pool of glass, be sure to let me know what it is. Kim Jong-un appears to be playing a strong hand at the moment and it’s tough to see what additional cards Donald Trump has left up his sleeve.