President Trump is basking in the glow of chatter that he deserves a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts on the Korea Peninsula.
Trump’s supporters — and even the South Korean president — say that getting North Korea to denuclearize and end the Korean War would be a monumental achievement worthy of the prize.
It’s far from sure, of course, that Trump’s upcoming summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will lead to a lasting peace deal, and Trump himself on Tuesday appeared to suggest that people are getting a bit ahead of themselves.
“I just think that President Moon [Jae-in] was very nice when he suggested it,” Trump said Tuesday when asked about his Nobel prospects. “I want to get peace. The main thing, we want to get peace. It was a big problem, and I think it’s going to work out well.
“We’ll see. … But I thought it was very generous of President Moon of South Korea to make that statement, and I appreciate it, but the main thing is to get it done. I want to get it done.”
The talk of Trump getting the prestigious award for statesmanship is a long way from when the world was on edge as Trump mocked Kim as “Little Rocket Man” and threatened “fire and fury” if North Korea continued its nuclear threats.
It’s certainly possible that Trump could have been nominated for this year’s peace prize, which former President Obama won in 2009.
The cut-off for nominations is Feb. 1, however, which came before the news of the Trump-Kim meeting. That means a 2019 nomination for Trump might be more likely.
Anyone can be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize by someone who falls into one of eight categories.
Eligible nominators include members of national assemblies or national governments of sovereign states — though people cannot nominate themselves. That means Trump couldn’t throw his own hat in the ring, but a member of Congress or his Cabinet could.
The other categories of nominators are members of the International Court of Justice in The Hague and the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague; members of the Institute of International Law; university professors of history, social sciences, law, philosophy, theology and religion; university heads and directors of peace research or foreign policy institutes; past Peace Prize winners; board of directors members for institutions that are past Peace Prize winners; current and former members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee; and former advisers to the Norwegian Nobel Committee.
The list of nominees officially remains secret for 50 years, though individuals sometimes publicize when they’ve nominated someone.
On Feb. 1, the Norwegian Nobel Committee stops taking nominations and whittles down its long list of nominees into a short list. The committee, composed of five members appointed by the Norwegian parliament, then chooses a winner, announced in October each year.
This year there are 330 candidates, of which 216 are individuals and 114 are organizations, according to the Nobel Prize website.
Trump was definitely nominated both this year and last — but the Nobel Committee said the public nominations appear to be forgeries, and both were referred to Norwegian police.
Politics has been seen as front and center in the Nobel prize, and there are those who doubt the committee would pick Trump for the award even if he did achieve Korean peace.
“My guess is they would not be comfortable giving it to him unless there was a tangible result,” said Andy Keiser, a principal at Navigators Global who worked on the Trump transition’s national security team. “Perhaps even then, it would be for all three of them, Trump, Moon and Kim.”
The prize, first awarded in 1901, has had controversial winners in the past. Henry Kissinger’s win in 1973 for negotiating an ultimately short-lived ceasefire in Vietnam prompted two committee members to quit in protest for the first time in the prize’s history.
A committee member also resigned in 1994 when Yasser Arafat won alongside Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres for their roles in negotiating the Oslo accords.
It’s not unheard of for the committee to award works in progress.
In 2000, South Korean President Kim Dae-jung won the award for his so-called sunshine policy toward North Korea, which has been scrutinized for rewarding Pyongyang while failing to result in peace.
Obama’s win also elicited criticism as it was awarded in the first year of his presidency, before he accomplished much.
Last year’s winner was the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), which successfully pushed the United Nations to pass the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. None of the world’s acknowledged nuclear weapons states have signed the treaty, though, leading some to dismiss the Nobel’s choice as aspirational.
In response to the chatter of Trump deserving an award, ICAN Executive Director Beatrice Fihn tweeted that she’d “put in a good word” for Trump if he works with Russian President Vladimir Putin to reduce both countries’ nuclear arsenals.
In a separate statement on last week’s inter-Korea summit, ICAN credited South Korea for the progress rather than Trump.
“The dangerous rhetoric from Donald Trump and the U.S. brought us to the brink of nuclear war, and only careful diplomacy from South Korea has brought us back from it,” ICAN said in a statement Friday.
The talk of Trump deserving a Nobel picked up after the Kim-Moon summit last week resulted in a joint declaration saying they are committed to denuclearizing the peninsula and ending the Korean War.
On Friday, Rep. Luke Messer (R-Ind.), who is in a crowded Senate primary campaign, released a statement saying he was gathering support from his colleagues to nominate Trump for the award in 2019. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has also talked about Trump deserving the award if there’s a peace deal.
During a rally in Michigan on Saturday, attendees, apparently unprompted, began chanting “Nobel” while Trump discussed North Korea. Trump stopped talking and stood smiling as they continued the chant.
“That’s very nice, thank you. That’s very nice. Nobel,” he said with a chuckle at the end. “I just want to get the job done.”
On Monday, Moon told a meeting of senior secretaries that “President Trump should win the Nobel Peace Prize,” according to a South Korean presidential office official who briefed the media.
At least one betting market gives Trump decent odds to win the prize this year. As of Tuesday, Britain-based Ladbrokes gave Trump 10/1 odds, tied with the U.N. refugee agency. The only choice with better odds was a joint win by Moon and Kim, at 4/6.
Still, foreign policy experts have been highlighting Pyongyang’s history of breaking commitments to get rid of its nuclear program, suggesting the Nobel talk is premature.
“It’s definitely too early to be declaring victory, but the progress we’ve seen is not insignificant for sure,” Keiser said. “There have been multiple examples of the world thinking we have made progress in North Korea, all the while they’re developing their nuclear program on the side.”
Henrik Urdal, director of the Peace Research Institute Oslo, said signals from the inter-Korea summit are promising, but it’s still “far too early” to talk about awarding a Nobel Peace Prize to any of the parties in the Korea talks.
The institute is separate from the Nobel Institute, but it annually releases its own list of who the director thinks will make the Nobel’s short list.
The Nobel committee will likely want to see “real and irreversible” change in North Korea before it considers awarding anyone the Peace Prize, Urdal added.
“If successful, however, there is little doubt that solving the conflict on the Korean peninsula would be considered an exceptionally important contribution to global stability, and worthy of a prize,” Urdal said in an email.
“If Trump makes a major contribution to such achievement, he will be considered for the Peace Prize, and it is quite possible that he could get it. However, he has been playing a high-stake game so far, so he needs to demonstrate statesman skills beyond threats and [deterrence] for that to happen.”