Tags: trump | kim jong un | summit | singapore | north korea

Trump Face-to-Face With Kim Makes Negotiations Different From Past

Trump Face-to-Face With Kim Makes Negotiations Different From Past
North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un (R) walks with U.S. President Donald Trump (L) during a break in talks at their historic US-North Korea summit, at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore on June 12, 2018. (Anthony Wallace/AFP/Getty Images)

By Wednesday, 13 June 2018 12:50 PM Current | Bio | Archive

“…Gradually and then suddenly.” Although the quote is Hemingway and the subject was personal bankruptcy, we can say the same about the sudden change in American-North Korean relations brought to the forefront by the Trump-Kim Singapore Summit.

That the summit made history is clear, but what is more amazing is that the summit happened at all.

How many foreign policy experts would have predicted such an event in summer 2017? Those with elephantine memories may recall that last year we were embroiled in the tragic case of Otto Warmbier. Who would have guessed that the Warmbier tragedy would touch off a process that put us on the road to Singapore? The president’s thoughtful conversation with the Warmbier family crediting Otto is a reminder to all of us how quickly an impasse can melt away provided the United States has leadership possessing imaginative thinking.

Looking back, I find it ironic that on my old podcast “The Station Chief,” my cohost and I discussed in spring 2017 the unlikely potential of a Trump-Kim summit. The idea seemed outlandish at the time, with all the tweets of “Fire and Fury” — but I understood then that with Trump’s “out of the box” thinking, almost anything was possible. Fortunately for all Americans, this has been proven true.

Yes, we all know that the Singapore “Agreement” is bare bones, featuring no timeline, no verification mechanism. There indeed have been three previous agreements with North Korean regimes, all of which have proven worthless. That we must “Trust but Verify” is readily obvious.

This is a first step of what can be a very long process — but it is a First Step in which the Administration can take pride.

The Singapore Summit was important not only for what it has started (I am cautiously optimistic), but for its breaking a precedent in featuring both national leaders as participants.

This approach is typical of the “high risk, high gain” strategy that is the hallmark of President Trump. Naysayers point out that this approach is inherently flawed (it affords excessive legitimacy to Kim, etc.), but I disagree — the summit actually showcases the savvy calculation of the president.

By making the Singapore Summit a personal matter between two national leaders, Trump no doubt believes this will constrain Kim’s ability to diplomatically “maneuver” in the future. North Korea has famously flouted international law many times before — and the president does not seek a repeat performance.

While we can say that a future breakdown of the bilateral summit would be unfortunate for the image of the Trump Administration — let’s consider the summit from the point of view of North Korean leadership. Its success might literally be a matter of life and death for “Little Rocket Man.” Kim knows time is not on his side and while denuclearization is not very palatable, the alternative, a possible complete economic meltdown, is even worse. Kim understands that he cannot repeat the horror of a population reduced to eating grass during the 1990s famine — the internet age makes this impossible.

Having been educated in Switzerland, Kim, unlike his father and grandfather, understands that the protective cocoon around North Korea has become greatly frayed.

A bilateral personal meeting may engender some degree of trust between the participants — perhaps even from a homicidal survivor such as Kim. It's certainly a risk worth taking from the president’s view. It doesn’t take a CIA Case Officer to see the benefit of meeting Kim to take the measure of the man — especially one as shadowy as Kim Jong Un.

Although it might or might not increase the chances of an actual accord being reached, this summit reduces the chances of an accord signed, but later skirted and violated — a “Bad Deal.” With both leaders invested, the issue of “face” will be a central part of future negotiations.

Kim will thus think very carefully about cheating on any potential accord. With the president now personally invested in the dialogue, Kim will view Trump as much less likely to tolerate any cheating. Ironically, the mainstream media (MSM) has been Trump’s ally in the crafting of the president’s diplomatic “image.” The harping on Trump’s “impulsive” approach, his “hair trigger” temper and unhinged demeanor all contribute to an image Kim has of a president who will not brook deception.

If I were a member of the liberal progressive media, however, I would not be awaiting a congratulatory presidential tweet.

Scott Uehlinger is a retired CIA Station Chief and Naval Officer. A Russian speaker, he spent 12 years of his career abroad in the former Soviet Union. In addition to teaching at NYU, he is a frequent Newsmax TV and Fox Business TV commentator, and has a weekly podcast, "the Station Chief," that can be found on iTunes or at www.thestationchief.com. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.

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Those with elephantine memories may recall that last year we were embroiled in the tragic case of Otto Warmbier. Who would have guessed that the Warmbier tragedy would touch off a process that put us on the road to Singapore?
trump, kim jong un, summit, singapore, north korea
Wednesday, 13 June 2018 12:50 PM
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