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Kim Jong Un Should Have Read 'The Art Of The Deal'

The North Koreans are known for their tough in-your-face rhetoric and not an inch negotiating style. One of their favorite tactics is to take a half-step, say agree to a meeting and then pull out at the last minute while launching a volley of invective at the U.S., South Korea or Japan, another favorite target.

During the Obama years North Korean officials routinely unleashed a slew of crude insults against leaders in Trump on North KoreaWashington and Seoul, calling President Barack Obama a monkey and South Korea’s then-President Park Geun-hye a prostitute.

Back in 2014 the North Koreans once referred to then-Secretary of State John Kerry as, “A wolf with a hideous lantern jaw,” and also described Kerry as a “wolf donning the mask of sheep.” The trigger for those insults was then-Secretary of State Kerry’s statement saying Washington wants to see peace on the Korean Peninsula.

Lest you think that this North Korean diplomatic language was limited to the Obama years, we assure you it wasn’t.

During the administration of President George W. Bush, the North Koreans, then led by Kim Jong Un’s father, Kim Jong Il, denounced then-Under Secretary of State John Bolton (now President Trump’s National Security Advisor) as "rude human scum” for pointing out that they were in violation of a Clinton-era deal to abandon their nuclear weapons program.

The North Koreans headed back down the well-trodden path of threats and name-calling when North Korea’s vice foreign minister called Vice President Mike Pence “ignorant and stupid” and said the U.S. must decide whether it wants to “meet us at a meeting room or encounter us at nuclear-to-nuclear showdown.”

It appears that for all their name-calling bravado the North Koreans hadn’t read “The Art of the Deal” or listened to what President Trump has been saying about walking away if things weren’t leading to a denuclearization deal.

President Trump was quick to respond, writing in a personal letter to Kim Jong Un, “Sadly, based on the tremendous anger and open hostility displayed in your most recent statement, I feel it is inappropriate, at this time, to have this long-planned meeting.”

The President continued:

Therefore, please let this letter serve to represent that the Singapore summit, for the good of both parties, but to the detriment of the world, will not take place. You talk about your nuclear capabilities, but ours are so massive and powerful that I pray to God they will never have to be used.

However, the President left open the possibility of a meeting and better relations, saying, “I felt a wonderful dialogue was building up between you and me, and ultimately, it is only that dialogue that matters. Some day, I look very much forward to meeting you,” President Trump wrote, adding that North Korea’s release of three American hostages earlier this month “was a beautiful gesture and was very much appreciated.”

The President concluded by saying, “If you change your mind having to do with this most important summit, please do not hesitate to call me or write.”

Some commentators, especially those of liberal bent, have questioned that statement, noting that it was not Kim, but Trump who cancelled the summit. In that their analysis was both shallow and tied to the old John Kerry – Barack Obama “I’m your punching bag” style of dealing with North Korea.

In Trump’s analysis, the North Korean verbal assault was an obvious prelude to cancelling the summit, and the necessary counter was to cancel before they did, putting his adversary in the weaker position of having to ask him to come back to the table.

The end result was a personal win for President Trump and an advantage for the United States; we got the three Christian hostages back, the North Koreans may or may not have dismantled some of their nuclear program, the President faced-down Kim Jong Un and cancelled before he could and booked the domestic political advantage of appearing to be the toughest negotiator on the planet.

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US Diplomacy Lags Behind

Donald Trump's campaign rhetoric specifically called out neocon blunders like the Iraq invasion and occupation. Yet, right before a potentially momentous summit meeting between Pres. Trump and Leader Kim Jong Un, unrepentant neocons of the Bush era are switched in as NSC Advisor and as Sec. of State. Serial blunderer Bolton provocatively (or, just obliviously) proceeds to mention one of his regime change recommendations as useful "Libya model" for a NoKo disarmament.

And, following Kim Jong Un's good faith gestures (three prisoners released; and, a show of some nuclear program dismantling) there was no good faith reciprocity gestures. Now maybe calling off joint military exercises with South Korea was considered too big a gesture. Considering South Korea's Pres. Moon Jae-in warming relations with Kim Jong Un (going back to the Winter Olympics) it is likely he would have welcomed at least a delay of the annual joint military exercises. Certainly, a more useful diplomatic posture would be to avoid premature ballyhooing of what a big Trump win this was by at least showing some reserve on polling as to how soon he should be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize!

And, did anyone on the American side think that the "neighbors" (South and North) consider the promise of a "nuclear free peninsula" to mean that the U.S. might remove its land forces at long last from over 60-years of occupation?

Also, considering how well Gaddafi and his surrender of Libya's considerably less developed nuclear program turned out, isn't a phased NoKo reduction more reasonable. Finally, using the defensive "equalizer" logic of an armed citizen, isn't it more reasonable to allow that a sovereign nation would have existential concerns to save itself from rogue regime change in the face of overwhelmingly superior military power?