North Korea and Trump’s Amazing Art of the Deal
So President Trump made history as he met the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on Sunday and stepped into North Korea itself; both Trump and Kim Jong-un were shaking hands and mutually complementing one another. Trump initiated the meeting at the DMZ, the demilitarized zone, after the G20 meeting in Japan. The two leaders spoke briefly as both the North Korean and American media scrambled around to capture the historic moment. The rapprochement between the two nations that are technically speaking still in a conflict with one another, no lasting peace treaty has yet been signed, we only have an armistice, but this rapprochement is a very encouraging sign that peace talks with North Korea may in fact end with a denuclearized North Korea and the possible withdrawal of 30 thousand American troops from the region. This was the third meeting between the two sides in the last year, an astonishing accomplishment given that North Korea had effectively isolated itself from the West, particularly the United States, for the last several decades.
Now, Trump had originally tweeted that he would love to meet Chairman Kim at the DMZ border and shake his hand there, and Kim quickly responded in the affirmative. Now what the two sides want is rather clear, Trump wants North Korea to give up its nukes, an action that would be hailed as an astonishing diplomatic triumph for his presidency, and Kim is eager to get Trump to ease crippling international economic sanctions on North Korea, which are incredibly harsh. There is a major problem from the outset. Chairman Kim does not want to give up his winning card with the nuclear weapons, the nukes are his ace in the whole not just with the United States, but also with China and Russia. The reason why North Korea is getting so much attention from the States, China, and Russia is of course because of its nuke capacity. If he gives up on that, he loses any leverage he has in the region with far bigger national powers. This is why many are saying that any deal that gets worked is going to have to let North Korea have some kind of continued leverage with regard to the nukes. One proposal involves getting North Korea to agree to end its nuclear weapons production, so the actually production of weapons ends, while taking the remaining ones and moving them to an International Atomic Energy Agency WITHIN North Korea. The International Atomic Energy Agency would guarantee that the weapons remain dormant, but because they remain in North Korean territory, Kim would still feel like he had leverage in negotiations as well as a hedge against the threat of hostile forces overturning his regime.
So I do not even think the issue is the whole notion of him having to give up his nukes before sanctions are lifted, that is usually what you will hear, that North Korea wants sanctions lifted first, then they will begin the process of denuclearization. But the real issue is that a totalizing denuclearization is most likely not going to happen in North Korea, and so, the Trump administration is going to have think that one through. Now there are two things that I find so striking about all of this. The first involves Trump’s who ‘Art of the Deal’ approach in all of this. There are some very interesting principles from the Art of the Deal that he’s employed throughout this process that I think has inordinately contributed to this historic meeting.
First, one of the principles from the Art of the Deal is that you have to be bold, controversial, and confrontational in order to force people to pay attention to you. This of course is what Trump was doing on Twitter when he was originally mocking Kim Jong-un, calling him ‘rocket man’ and reminding him that his ‘nuclear button’ was much bigger than Kim’s. Now of course, our governing elite, our political and media elite were just aghast over this, but Trump was clearly trying to get Kim’s attention. This is one of the principles of the Art of the Deal because one of the things that Trump was acknowledging was that Kim had HIS attention. Trump had his mind on Kim and it was time for the two to sit down and chat. So he clearly got Kim’s attention with those original tweets, but he also acknowledged that Kim had HIS attention.
The second thing is of course Trump’s willingness to walk away. If you want a good deal, you have to be willing to walk away, you can never negotiate from a position of weakness, and we have of course seen Trump’s willingness to walk away from negotiations with North Korea throughout this past year. But perhaps most importantly, we’ve seen Trump’s understanding of leverage In his Art of the Deal. He recognizes that to get the upper hand in a deal, you have to know and have what the other side really wants. And it seems to me that Trump is banking on North Korea wanting two things, it is actually North Korea and China. North Korea wants the sanctions lifted so that it can renew and capitalize its economy akin to China’s economic structure, its engineered or managed capitalism. And China wants a peace accord signed so as to rid the South Pacific of 30 thousand American troops in South Korea. China wants to increase its Belt and Road Initiative, which is reorganizing much of the world political and economic order around Beijing, and America in the south pacific is a major impediment to that, so a nuclearized North Korea is forcing the States to offer a peace treaty in exchange for some kind of denuclearization, which, if effected, will in turn put pressure on their withdrawing of American troops from South Korea.
And why I think the Art of the Deal applies here is because Trump appears more than willing to do just that, and THIS is where the new nationalism is coming in. Trump has already ceded much of the Middle East to Russia, we saw this with Syria. Vladimir Putin almost single-handedly saved Bashar al-Assad from being overthrown, and as a result, Syria is now Russia’s major ally in the Middle East, along with Iran, and Trump doesn’t have much of a problem with that, especially since the United States has become a net energy exporter under his administration. He’s turned Palestine over to Israel, with his full endorsement of the one-state solution. By moving the US embassy to Jerusalem, Trump is recognizing that Jerusalem is the permanent capital of Israel, and the Palestinians will remain solely a demographic under Israelite governance. And now it appears that Trump is willing to cede much of the Pacific to China but balanced with a fully-US-backed Japan and South Korea.
You will note that Trump is talking like George W. Bush, he hasn’t designated North Korea as part of an axis of evil that the United States is willing to overthrow, regime change is NOT part of the US disposition towards North Korea under Trump. Trump recognizes that North Korea is a very nationalist nation. The government there has a cult-like following because it is seen as the defender of a very mythic conception of the Korean race. And so, as perhaps the major representative of the new nationalism, Trump is actually giving space for North Korea to bargain and negotiate and cooperate. North Korea is not being required to give up its own distinctive vision of life, one of the courses that we would vehemently disagree with, that is why we do not live there. But now, with the new nationalism and its principle of mutuality and an equality of cultural cooperation, now North Korea can in fact live in peace with its neighbors and with the rest of the world. And of course, Kim Jong Un has enormous incentive to do this.
As North Korea is being invited to be a part of China’s Belt and Road economic initiatives, getting rid of the sanctions and getting rid of American military presence in Korea is a win-win-win. It’s a win for North Korea, a win for China, and a win for Trump’s new foreign policy. What Trump is doing here is very interesting. He is in effect modernizing American foreign policy. Remember, when we ended the military conflict in Korea back in July of 1953, South Korea was devastated, and there was no way it could defend itself. But today, South Korea is twice the population of the North, its economy is the 13th largest in the world, 40 times that of North Korea, and now that North Korea is nuclearized, why on earth would we enter into a nuclear war over South Korea? How on earth is this even remotely in line with American national interests? Pat Buchanan has been arguing this for years now, much of our foreign policy is based on a world that doesn’t exist anymore. So all of this is to say, Trump appears to be the one to help orchestrate a new world political order, one where the Art of the Deal appears to be playing a major role.