“My style of deal-making is quite simple and straightforward. I aim very high, and then I just keep pushing and pushing and pushing to get what I’m after. Sometimes I settle for less than I sought, but in most cases I still end up with what I want.” from Donald Trump’s autobiographical memoir, “The Art of the Deal,” published in 1987.
As an entrepreneur, reality TV star, later presidential aspirant and now President, Donald Trump frequently reminds us all, on Twitter and elsewhere of his powers of persuasion and big deal making. I give President Trump credit for opening discussions with North Korea, and its odd dictator, Kim Jong Un. Three generations of the Kim family have ruled North Korea since 1948. And standing down the nuclear weapons program of the tiny first world regime has vexed U.S. presidents ever since.
Following the first summit, Trump was able to cause Kim to halt missile launches over allies like Japan, as well as actively testing his nuclear arsenal. Kim was also persuaded, by Trump or by history, to take the first steps across his border and the de-militarized zone, to walk and talk with his South Korean counterpart, and to possibly begin what might actually become the full armistice and end of the Korean War.
Kim has partially closed, dismantled and imploded the primary underground weapon testing facility, but hundreds of buildings remain, sprawling across a nearly 30 mile military installation which is the center of Kim’s weapons program. And Kim has offered no assurances that existing missiles will be dismantled, as the 35 year old, 3rd generation dictator believes that his armaments, nuclear, chemical and conventional are all that prevent an all out U.S. led invasion to remove him from power.
Kim and the U.S. share a view of an eventually re-unified Korea, with Vietnam and Germany being the most relevant models. Seoul, the capital of South Korea, is under 30 miles from the North Korean border and is one of the world’s largest cities, teeming with nearing 12-million residents. Imagine New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and metro Atlanta’s populations combined, all in area of roughly 233 square miles. The 20-county metro Atlanta region is 8,376 square miles, and roughly the size of the state of Massachusetts.
Whether Appomattox, or Yalta or the Paris Peace Treaties of 1947, which formally ended the war in Western Europe or the Korean War Armistice Agreement of 1953, which ended fighting between the United States/United Nations Command and the Korean People’s Army & PRC, months of statecraft and staff work typically precede an actual summit, treaty signing and big meeting.
Presidents preceding Trump chose not to meet with Kim, his father or grandfather, in part to prevent elevating any of the despot trio on the world stage. Trump has crossed that bridge, and perhaps believed that the younger, pudgier fellow ‘playboy’ would choose history and moving his country out of the darkness, in exchange for global celebrity and eventual prosperity for his people, in exchange for his eventual loss of ruling power. But giving for the greater good doesn’t quite seem very Kim family.
There is plenty of blame to go round. Though Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is recognized and credited with establishing a format and delivery method for the President’s daily national security briefing, it’s clear that the President had also not ‘signed off’ on a template or pre-agreement which had been previewed by Pompeo’s counterparts in either Korea. This is again evident in part by the way these negotiations continue to blindside South Korean President Moon Jae-In, who continues to have both the most to gain and the most to lose during any potential Korean reunification.
It was Trump’s ‘gift’ of postponing scheduled war games exercises with South Korea, a result of Kim’s request at the earlier summit, which made the dictator view the developer as an easy mark. Thankfully, it was Trump who balked and walked this time, as Kim pushed for a full rollback of U.S. economic sanctions before his nation completed anything resembling true denuclearization. We would hope that our President won’t return to the negotiating table with the tyrant, unless there is an actual document to sign, following our previously stated and clear objections to nuclear weapons and related weaponry in the region. Perhaps then, as part of a nomination for a Nobel Peace Prize, Trump supporters can pin a second novel, “The Art of the Summit” versus another episode “Deal or No Deal.”