A Nork diplomatic trap?

Angelo Codevilla:
When President Donald Trump canceled the projected June 12 meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on May 24, he seemed to have stepped out of the classic diplomatic trap into which it seemed he had fallen. But by May 27 he seemed to step right back in it. Regardless of how this venture turns out, understanding this trap, and how North Korea has used it, is essential.

Any government subject to public opinion that commits to a negotiation with an authoritarian one with any degree of optimism thereby certifies the other party’s legitimacy and raises expectations among its own people. It acquires an interest in protecting its own judgment about the other party’s legitimacy and intentions. Hence, it becomes vulnerable to the other’s pressure to make concessions to keep the negotiations going lest their failure impeach that judgment and those who made it. By paying for continuing negotiations with unrequited concessions, the democratic side becomes complicit in creating illusions of progress. Falling into such traps is a hallmark of the US foreign policy establishment, whose representatives were Trump’s principal counselors at the time he committed to the meeting.

It is of scarce relevance whether Trump canceled the summit because he realized that agreeing to it had been a mistake, or because Mike Pompeo had replaced Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State and John Bolton Replaced H.R. McMaster as national security adviser, or whether he withdrew from the meeting and then resumed interest in it as a negotiating ploy. Regardless of reasons, Trump stepped into a diplomatic trap that is anything but a novelty.

Rather, Kim’s trap (more below about the 2018 version’s peculiarities) is a variation of North Korea’s standard approach to America, practiced successfully time and again since 1985, which must be seen in the larger context of US foreign relations in Asia. The focus of these relations is China – not North Korea.
There is much more.

Is China a participant in the trap?  Codevilla thinks so.  But it would require a US withdrawal of its forces and guarantees from South Korea.  I don't think Trump will make that part of the deal.  I think he is willing to open up trade with North Korea, but not hand them a bundle of cash and goodies.


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