We’re getting conflicting reports about what went down in Hanoi that abruptly ended the “negotiations.” Trump said that Kim Jong Un wanted all U.S. sanctions lifted in exchange for closing only one nuclear site. North Korean’s foreign minister said his country wanted only partial sanctions relief as part of a framework for more dismantling of nuclear weapons facilities. And, of course, they both could be lying.
Perhaps Trump will tire of his fake diplomacy publicity stunts and leave the nogotiations to diplomats. Nicholas Kristof writes that Trump had already overplayed his hand before the meeting began.
In particular, he signaled that he eagerly wanted a deal and that “fantastic success” was likely, all of which probably led Kim to raise demands in the belief that Trump would fold.
With normal presidents, summit deals are largely agreed upon ahead of time. As one veteran diplomat put it, presidents pull rabbits out of hats, after diplomats have worked diligently ahead of time to stuff the rabbits into the hats. But Trump has never had much patience for that meticulous diplomatic process, instead placing excessive faith in breakthroughs arising from personal relationships — and his faith was clearly misplaced this time.
The North Korean side had refused to hash out the summit outcome in advance with the highly regarded U.S. special envoy, Stephen Biegun, presumably because Kim thought that he could outfox Trump in person in Hanoi the way he had in Singapore nine months ago.
I’m guessing that’s exactly what went down. But with Mike Pompeo in charge of the State Department, I am not hopeful follow-up negotiations will do any good. It’s also possible that Trump was so unhinged over the Cohen testimony that he had to be stuffed into a straightjacket and loaded on Air Force One before he started World War III.