Monday, 28 May 2018
North Korea? Nobody Knows What's Happening, Least of All the President
I wonder if Donald Trump realises that, when the two leaders of the Korean peninsula, corpulent dictator Kim Jong-Un and credulous peacenik, Moon Jae-in, get together and hold talks after their public grinning and bear hugging sessions, they undoubtedly snigger about the dummy in the White House. Just flatter him, they say; just appease his ego. Tell him about the Nobel Peace Prize again, that's sure to get things back on track. Tell him only he, with his brilliant on/off strategy of dealmaking could have got us where we are today. Tell him we want 'complete denuclearisation'. His lawyer is Rudy Giuliani and so he won't understand that it doesn't mean what it says on the box.
And so it seems that the talks may be on again. If there is time. It illustrates the chaos in the Trump administration that a White House spokesman was widely reported to have informed reporters that there may not now be time for the summit to be revived in time for the former June 12th date. It is entirely normal in political reporting for spokesmen to brief journalists on the basis that they will not be named. This does not mean that the report is untrue or even a leak. Yet Trump saw the report and claimed that the New York Times had got its facts wrong and made up the source. But to repeat: the source was someone within his own administration reporting on what we would call lobby terms here in the UK. It is an entirely normal and legitimate way for the media to operate.
Why does this happen though? Because the policy of the administration changes from hour to hour according to the whim of Trump and according to what has enraged him on Fox News. It's entirely possible that his pulling out of the talks with Kim last week was another example of his asinine negotiating style. Pulling out of talks when the other side won't play ball is a perfectly legitimate way to negotiate of course, except that Trump had no clear idea what his goal was in the negotiations other than self-aggrandisement and record ratings. Both Koreas know this and so they have once again played the personality disorder in chief. Trump only pulled the plug on the talks because he was worried about the coverage he was getting and worried that he was being made to look a fool. Here's a hint Donald: it's not got any better.
Will the talks go ahead? Almost certainly, not because there is necessarily anything to talk about, but because Trump wants the optics and the ratings. His negotiating stance has been weakened still further and he will now agree to more or less anything proposed so that he can say he did a deal. Congress and those members of the Trump administration who value their careers or indeed care about their country should be very worried about that. What will he agree to? It was bad before, now he might very well end up offering to pull US troops out of south east Asia in return for one of those bear hugs and a Trump hotel in Pyongyang.