3 Positive Takeaways From “No Deal” in Vietnam
3 Positive Takeaways From “No Deal” in Vietnam
Trump’s meeting with Kim Jong Un in Vietnam is another step in building a bridge for the future. Despite the naysayers and the North Korea policy failures of previous administrations, this second meeting shows that there is hope for securing peace and prosperity on the Korean peninsula. It will take time, but so long as they continue to move forward together we should see positive progress.
There is much progress to make on the road to an open North Korea. Diminishing the small steps gained over the last two years is short sighted. In the 1980’s there was a Cowboy President who started talking to his Russian counterpart. The Cold War was in full force, and “duck and cover” was part of regular safety drills. Their initial meetings were described as,
 Little of substance was accomplished. Six agreements were reached, ranging from cultural and scientific exchanges to environmental issues. Both Reagan and Gorbachev, however, expressed satisfaction with the summit …The next summit was held in October 1986 in Reykjavik and ended somewhat disastrously [Regan walked out]….However, by the time of their third summit in 1987, both sides made concessions in order to achieve agreement on a wide range of arms control issues.
It took Regan and Gorbachev three public meetings, and three years. There was a lot of relationship building between two very different people who were focused on their goal. Trump and Kim are on their second meeting, and it was reportedly positive.
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) February 27, 2019
It may not have reduced nuclear proliferation, this time. But Trump describes the meeting as
“Productive, but sometimes you need to walk.”
In taking the long road approach, it saves us from a potentially bad deal. And as good negotiators know, “no deal” is better than a bad one.
A solid agreement that is enforceable and agreeable to all parties is a great way to maintain integrity. Hopefully, a third summit is productive and both leaders come to an accord. It will take time.
“[It’s better] to do it right than do it fast“
~Donald Trump, 2/27/18
Successful negotiations are based on knowing what the other party wants, the starting point is give and take. Trump knows that Kim wants elimination of all international sanctions. In exchange he was willing to offer up the Yongbyon facility. The loss of all hard fought sanctions outweighed the significance of a site that fell drastically short of destroying the rockets and warheads stashed in other parts of North Korea. Because Trump didn’t want to make a bad deal for America, there was no deal.
According to Trump, inspections are scheduled for the not too distant future, and will include both known and secret sites. This is an expansion on the previous inspections, limited to specific locations.
It seems like Kim wants normalization of relationships between North Korea and the rest of the world. If it happens, it will drastically benefit Kim Jong Un and his citizens. Their proximity to China, Russia, South Korea, and Japan play an important role in future economic development. These summits held outside of North Korea offer the citizens of North Korea a very small, but meaningful, glance into life outside of the “Hermit Kingdom.” Trump was high in his praise upon landing when he Tweeted,
“Vietnam is thriving like few places on earth. North Korea would be the same, and very quickly, if it would denuclearize. The potential is AWESOME, a great opportunity, like almost none other in history, for my friend Kim Jong Un. We will know fairly soon – Very Interesting!”
A third generation dictator, gripping his nuclear arsenal to maintain his political position, may be swayed by the formerly Communist Vietnam. A country that is becoming a regional economic engine. Kim is a smart man, he’s had the best education, and was raised by a brutal dictator. The question is if his desire to remain the Hermit King outweighs a desire to lead his people into the 21st century. To become a truly Great Leader.
“It’s too early to say. I won’t make predictions. But I instinctively feel that a good outcome will be produced.”
There has been much derision toward Trump’s trip to Vietnam. Former Secretary of State and NoPUS (Not President of the US), Hillary Clinton shared her snipe on a podcast.
“I have serious doubts that whatever [Trump] claims will be actually achieved.”
“All the intelligence, which Trump dismisses, suggests that it’s unlikely but not impossible that Kim Jong Un will give up his nuclear weapons capacity,” she said.
“I don’t see a deal there that is a verifiable, enforceable deal,” Clinton argued, but “I don’t know what Trump will claim.”
Yikes! She sounds bitter. Is it because her time as Sec State produced minimal success with North Korea? Is it because he’s having some success in moving the process along after only 3 years in office? Hillary doesn’t sound like American or regional success is her priority. Or maybe she’s mad because her idea back in 2008 was “direct engagement” with North Korea, but her time as Sec State was ineffective repetitive “sticks & carrots”?
History is a reliable teacher. Trump seems to be content with a long game, and observers predict that this is a sage approach. If the history between two nuclear superpowers is any indication, we have hope.
Kim Jong Un is a young leader. He can make strides to emulate other successful countries in the region, Vietnam specifically, and join South Korea in economic prosperity. Freeing his people to become the economic engine that propels his country into the 21st century.
The last reason to have confidence in this approach is because it’s exactly what hasn’t been done for decades. Our approach to North Korea has been to malign one dictator, while hypocritically embracing others. It undermines our foreign policy credibility. We deal with unpleasant dictators all the time, because that’s what it takes to make the deal. Excluding Kim Jong Un to the kids table only serves to give us a grumpy man child with nuclear toys. When I want my teenager to behave like an adult, I treat him like one. It doesn’t always work, but it’s worth trying after the bribes and belt stop working.