The US-N. Korea Summit

Most analysts agree that the summit between Pres. Trump and Kim Jong-Un in Singapore was more style than substance. Yet it was undoubtedly a historic occasion.  Previous Presidents of the US have shied away from meeting with the dictators of N. Korea for fear of giving them credibility and legitimacy.  But, Pres. Trump is characteristically both more impetuous and more canny.  He and his advisers realized that the kind of brinkmanship practised by the rulers of N. Korea was designed to gain them media coverage and status on the world stage.  To deal with them means accepting that this is their goal.  Letting them “strut their hour upon the stage.” was a necessary part of getting a deal, as Trump would see it.  They want to be taken seriously as major players and having a one-on-one meeting with the President of the US was their price for any further agreement.

Whether or not Kim Jong-un can be trusted or whether or not Trump can insist on denuclearization of the Korean peninsula as well as realistic verification of missile and nuclear programs remains to be seen, but this summit was the first essential step.  In doing so Trump exceeded the expectations of all previous Presidents who refused to actually deal with the dictators of N. Korea.

Apart from the future prospects for peace and stability in Korea, with the active support of China, the  world has learnt a lesson.  That is that Trump is both unpredictable and can threaten to use the superpower force of the US with evident success, but is always prepared to deal.  The rest of the world is now waiting to see what happens with Iran.  The Iranians are similar to N. Korea in that they are an absolute dictatorship with expansive goals, yet their primary interest is to ensure the continuity of their regime.  If Trump were to likewise threaten them with the power of the US military unless they change their ways,  they will likely cave like N. Korea, and come into the fold and do a deal, this time a real deal that is in US interests.  How backing down and dealing with the US will affect their credibility and the long-term stability of their regime is another issue.

Many people have been concerned by the apparent rift between the G6 and the US as revealed at the G7 summit in Canada.  Some have likened this to the preference by Pres,. Obama to engage with America’s enemies (Iran, Russia, China) rather than cultivate America’s allies.  However, there is fundamental difference between Obama and Trump in this regard.  Obama was trying to act like a European nation, using persuasion and diplomacy, while Trump emphasizes American exceptionalism, using power and threats.  In that respect Trump is more American and eschews the European approach to trying to deal with enemies, rather than treating them as enemies.  Which approach will produce more results for the US remains to be seen, but the Summit with N. Korea seems to point the way to future progress.

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