The White House has just announced that President Trump has cancelled the planned summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un. This is an excellent move by Trump, I think. Just this morning my old AEI colleague Nick Eberstadt warned in the Wall Street Journal:
North Korea is also threatening to scrap the Singapore parley unless denuclearization is taken off the agenda.
There’s no need for Kremlinology here. These are standard North Korean shakedown techniques, honed to perfection by three generations of regime negotiators. Mr. Kim is probing for pre-emptive concessions before his big get-together with Mr. Trump. Such techniques have proved successful in the past, which is why today North Korea is for all intents and purposes a nuclear state. If the U.S. wants a different outcome this time, it is going to have to adopt a radically different approach. . .
None of the ordinary rules of diplomacy apply with North Korea. For a revisionist state, negotiations constitute war by other means. That means there is no “win-win,” no “getting to yes.” This is not like entering into a trade deal with Belgium. North Korean officialdom believes only in “win-lose” outcomes. . .
Mr. Trump must be ready to walk away, as Ronald Reagan did at Reykjavik, Iceland, in 1986.
And voila—Trump has called Un’s bluff, and walked away before the talks even commenced. I think the Norks calculated that Trump wanted the summit more than they do.
The letter that the White House released reads like something Trump wrote himself:
Let’s hope Trump follows up by tightening the economic screws on North Korea further, which Eberstadt believes is possible. (It will involve imposing some real pain on Chinese banks, but that would be just a bonus.)