Trump gives the world a win in Korea negotiations

Michael Barone:
It has been a week full of wins for Donald Trump — at least from the perspective of those who share Trump’s view of the way the world works, and perhaps even for some who don’t.

Exhibit A is Trump’s summit meeting with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un in Singapore. In their self-congratulatory joint statement, the two leaders stated that North Korea committed to “work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula” and the United States agreed “to provide security guarantees” to North Korea.

Critics said that that’s not airtight language, and argued that Kim came out better than the author of The Art of the Deal. He got cancellation of U.S.-South Korea military exercises next March in return for promises that his regime has repeatedly broken.

But Trump was having none of this. In place of the “fire and fury” he threatened not so long ago, he rhapsodized about new condominium developments replacing the Hermit Kingdom's shoreline artillery emplacements. And unlike previous U.S. negotiators with Korea, his diplomacy was very personal: the president who began his Manhattan real estate career at 25 noted that Kim took power at 27.

Similarly personal was the appeal in the four-minute video produced by the National Security Council. Of 7 billion people on earth, only a few can make a difference, the narrator said, adding that history need not be repeated but can evolve. Hokey, critics said, but "Dilbert" author Scott Adams, who famously predicted Trump’s election based on his persuasive powers, said his “first reaction” was that “it might be the best thing anybody ever did in a negotiation. Period.”

The personal touch, by the way, distinguishes Trump’s outreach to North Korea from Barack Obama’s to Iran. The Iranian regime is a group project, with many leaders with ideological and economic interests in continuing hostility to the United States. Obama’s hope that he could change its outlook clearly went unrealized.

Kim Jong Un’s regime, in contrast, appears highly personal, one in which the leader can order the sudden deposition and death of an uncle who is a key official. That regime’s behavior, Trump is betting, will change if he can change the mind of just one man.

Of course, this may not work out. But the argument is that nothing else has, and with North Korean nukes now poised to hit the West Coast, it’s worth trying. “The world is safer than it was a week ago,” writes the veteran Washington Post foreign correspondent David Ignatius, “and Trump is getting some deserved global applause.”
There3 is more.

The criticism of cancellation of military exercises in South Korea does not make a lot of sense.  If Kim changes his mind about doing a deal, the exercises can be quickly reinstated.  Those who see the halting of the exercises as a major concession do not understand the military and how quickly those plans can be reinstated as long as the troops remain in the area.  Unlike the terrible Iran deal, there are no upfront benefits to the North Korean regime.  Sanctions are to be lifted after denuclearization and there are no pallets of cash.  The denuclearization is more significant that Iran's pausing of its nuclear program that Obama got at a high cost.  If Kim breaks the deal then the sanctions remain in place.


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