An of­fer they can’t refuse

Why did the man famed for pen­ning The Art of the Deal throw such a large bone to Chair­man Kim?

Hawke's Bay Today - - DIGEST - To­day’s colum­nist — Bruce Bis­set

If there’s one thing all the com­men­ta­tors and an­a­lysts agree on, it’s that North Korea will not uni­lat­er­ally dis­arm it­self.

Watch­ing the whole Trump-Kim mu­tual glo­ri­fi­ca­tion game un­fold it would be nice to think their sum­mit por­tends a step away from nu­clear holo­caust, at least as far as the Korean cor­ner of the world is con­cerned.

And per­haps it does, but not quite as most folk imag­ine.

See, Kim Jong Un re­ally has only two bar­gain­ing chips: his own nu­clear weapons, and China’s sup­port for his regime. The lat­ter is a neb­u­lous and com­plex re­la­tion­ship, leav­ing the for­mer as the only toy he can re­ally threaten with; so why would he give it up?

Sure, he’s agreed to “com­plete de­nu­cle­ari­sa­tion” of the Korean penin­sula, but North Korea has gone on de­vel­op­ing war­heads de­spite four times agree­ing not to.

So while this lat­est bit of PR spin might sound good, if there’s one thing all the com­men­ta­tors and an­a­lysts agree on, it’s that North Korea will not uni­lat­er­ally dis­arm it­self or com­pletely, ver­i­fi­ably and ir­re­versibly dis­man­tle its nu­clear weapons.

Es­pe­cially given those words — which US diplo­mats had pushed for — are not in­cluded in the text that was signed.

What was in­cluded? Very lit­tle. Apart from the too-thin nu­clear clause, there was a prom­ise to “es­tab­lish new re­la­tions” be­tween the US and the DPRK, to jointly work to build “a last­ing and sta­ble peace regime” on the penin­sula — what­ever that means — and to re­turn any POW or miss­ing in ac­tion re­mains to their coun­try of ori­gin. That’s it.

The only real con­ces­sion made came out­side the sum­mit af­ter the agree­ment was signed, when Pres­i­dent Trump an­nounced the can­cel­la­tion of all fu­ture al­lied “war games” in the re­gion.

Whether this in­cludes any with Ja­pan was not im­me­di­ately clear, but to say the South Kore­ans were dis­mayed at this un­ex­pected lead bal­loon is un­der­state­ment.

Why did the man famed for pen­ning The Art of the Deal throw such a large bone to Chair­man Kim?

There are two schools of thought. One is that the whole sum­mit process was whipped up merely in or­der to show the folks back home what a great states­man Trump is, ris­ing above all the mu­tual name-calling and promised de­struc­tion volleyed back and forth in pre­vi­ous months, and this ex­tra was to demon­strate how mag­nan­i­mous he could be with peo­ple — even en­e­mies — who made a show of go­ing along with him. Tra­di­tional al­lies of the G7, take good note! The other — which is not mu­tu­ally ex­clu­sive — is this is Trump’s way of tak­ing the moral high ground, so that what­ever ac­tion may be held to be nec­es­sary in fu­ture when the so-called “deal” fal­ters can be blamed on North Korea, who will al­ways be painted as the “bad sports”.

Kim Jong Un is doubt­less bask­ing in the glory of what he sees as a diplo­matic coup that helps le­git­imise his rule, but I sus­pect he’s been sucker-punched; for all he is a dic­ta­tor, he needs to un­der­stand that in essence Trump is a mob­ster, with a mob­ster’s in­stincts and way of re­solv­ing prob­lems.

I sug­gest Trump’s “no ex­er­cises” of­fer was not a lau­rel leaf; it’s de­signed to hook China into backing the US po­si­tion by giv­ing China ev­ery­thing it wants.

That’s very crafty be­cause if there’s one thing the Chi­nese try to avoid above all else, it’s los­ing face. When, as seems al­most in­evitable, push comes to shove over Korea, China may find it­self too com­pro­mised to back its pup­pet-ally.

At which point, the US wins. And, strange as it sounds, Trump will, via his own kiss-of-death ver­sion of mob­ster diplo­macy, have proved him­self a gen­uine states­man.

You read it here first.

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