In the real world of international relations it is always better to be talking than not having open lines of communication. The goes without saying.
But in the real world of diplomacy it is also true placing one of the world’s leading despots alongside the power and imagery of the leader of the free world should only come when there is a significant enhancement of behavior from the one seeking to bask in the light of such attention.
That then is my issue with what played out today when Donald Trump became the first sitting American commander in chief to set foot in North Korea. He met North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in the DMZ. It is no wonder that Kim was grinning widely. He had secured another international moment while his nation is starving and earning less per year than those who live in the Congo.
I recall when President Bush (43) was reported to have had a visceral reaction when hearing of the starvation taking place in North Korea while the ruling family and military chief lived high and mighty. One can only image what he thought when it was reported by authoritative news operations in South Korea that Kim had multiple officials–including the lead negotiator in nuclear talks with the United States–executed.
Do not get me wrong. In the gritty world of international dialogues nations must engage at times and in ways with heinous leaders so to further larger goals. But when those meetings occur, and the benefactor is a dictator of the Kim variety, something of value to the international community needs to be secured. Starting up again low level staff meetings between the two nations does not qualify for what took place today.
The tactics employed by North Korea are not new. It is only Trump who has not come to terms with them. That is why it is reported that even Trump’s foreign policy bench were not in favor of the free-wheeling approach that was taken for nothing more than a photo op and meeting at the DMZ.
This blog has made the point, repeatedly, that the term disarmament is not one that has the same meaning for Kim and the United States. One does not need to be a rocket scientist to know that nation will never relinquish its nuclear weapons. What I have also stressed repeatedly on CP is that Kim is far smarter at this power play, the latest act which played out today. His family has been staging this play for decades. Since Trump took office they have now added a Sunday matinee.
From the start we have seen Kim allow for symbolically potent but substantively modest concessions which make headlines that allows for the egomaniac with orange skin to get all giddy. But the long range foreign policy needs require a truly cerebral leader at the helm for the United States, and we are lacking that essential ingredient.
Trump continues walking into a well-played trap and is not thinking clearly. Kim is determined to cement his country’s status as a nuclear state while working to undermine and remove economic sanctions. Why would Kim not want such a bargain?
And who better to play that to than someone who has no knowledge or skill in international relations. Donald Trump.