North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un is crazy, crazy like a fox. Donald Trump harbors delusions of grandeur about his negotiating skills and gives no indication that he will personally engage in the type of intense preparation his historic summit with Kim demands. Winging it won’t work. Using the playbook from his best-selling, ghost-written book “Art of the Deal” will not work either.
Kim, on the other hand, is working hard to get the best outcome for his country. Most importantly, Kim wants to ensure he remains in power. He is playing a carefully orchestrated game with Trump, whom other leaders have shown can be manipulated into doing their bidding. Saudi Arabia, Israel and China offer examples of how to handle Trump. Flattery works. Stroke his ego and reap the rewards. Then there is Russia’s approach. Make Trump fear whatever tools of retaliation you have in your arsenal, and he will become obsequious towards you.
Kim is using both tactics at the same time. It is the classic carrot and stick approach. He promised to dismantle a nuclear testing site that is now unusable, released three hostages, and pretends to be prepared to give the United States everything it wants. But then May 15, 2018 happens. Using the excuse of joint military exercises between South Korea and the United States, Kim cancels a meeting between the two Korean nations scheduled for the next day. Then he threatens to also cancel the summit with Trump.
With Trump’s fantasies of Nobel Peace Prize glory on the verge of disintegrating, you can bet the President is panicked. The summit will happen, but Kim has shown Trump who the alpha dog is in their relationship. Any deal these two leaders reach will be on Kim’s terms now.
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J.H. Norton is a communications professional, life-long Democrat, and married father of two boys living in Washington, D.C.