May 24, 2018

It’s official: Kim Jong-Un has managed to play himself out of a summit that could have pulled North Korea out of the Stone Age and ended its worldwide pariah status. This morning, President Trump sent Kim a cordial, “more in sorrow than in anger” sort of letter, canceling the scheduled June summit, but leaving open the possibility of talks at a later date, if Kim decides he can be civilized. And if he pulls anything foolish or reckless, the US military is “ready, if necessary,” to respond.

Acting like a grown-up isn’t a trait that Kim has been demonstrating recently. He followed his stunning overtures to South Korea and willingness to dismantle his nuclear program with a 180-degree turn, badmouthing Vice President Pence and ranting about US-South Korean military maneuvers and US policy in Libya.

There are those who believe this isn’t actually Kim’s doing, but China pulling his strings; that China decided it would rather have an unstable, totalitarian basket case threatening the world than have North Koreans join the 21st century, discover that capitalism actually provides people with food and start becoming friendly toward America.

Trump is, of course, being blasted for his alleged incompetence and naivety by the same liberals whose brilliant diplomacy resulted in Kim having nukes and missiles in the first place. I assume they think Trump should have begged Kim to hold talks and given him whatever he wanted (maybe even sent him a planeload of cash) just so he could come out and declare that he’d signed a deal, any deal, and there would be “peace in our time” (look it up.)

Some of Trump’s opponents seem more pleased to have an issue to bash him with than they are disappointed that the talks to end the nuclear threat are off. They don't seem to know how to process a US negotiator who refuses to signal that he can be rolled. New Jersey Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez scoffed, "The art of diplomacy is a lot harder than the art of the deal.”

Actually, if he’d ever read “The Art of the Deal,” he’d know that one of the most important factors is being willing to walk away, even at the last minute, if the other side pulls something you don’t like. If you hold the stronger hand, they’ll realize they blew it and come crawling back in a weaker position; and if they don’t come back, then they couldn’t be trusted anyway. If the people who’ve been practicing “the art of diplomacy” over the past couple of decades understood such basic rules of negotiation, Trump wouldn't have to be dealing with a nuclear North Korea now.

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