Ever since he threw his hat into the ring to run for president — and stunned the mainstream media by winning the White House — Donald Trump has declined to follow the conventional political or diplomatic playbook. In the process, he has exhilarated his supporters and infuriated his political opponents, including much of the mainstream media.
President Trump’s latest exploit, as is typical for this American leader, began with a tweet.
“After some very important meetings, including my meeting with President Xi of China, I will be leaving Japan for South Korea (with President Moon). While there, if Chairman Kim of North Korea sees this, I would meet him at the Border/DMZ just to shake his hand and say Hello(?)!.”
Thirty hours later, President Trump not only met with Kim for close to an hour at the Demilitarized Zone that separates the two Koreas, but actually walked a few steps into North Korea, becoming the first American president to do so.
His detractors, led by the large pack of democratic hopefuls vying for the chance to run against the president in the upcoming elections and amplified in the mainstream media, harshly criticized what they argued was merely a dramatic photo op that lacked any sort of substance.
A spokesperson for former Vice President Joe Biden, who is leading in the polls among Democrat wannabes, claimed that “President Trump’s coddling of dictators at the expense of American national security and interests is one of the most dangerous ways he’s diminishing us on the world stage and subverting our values as a nation.”
What Biden and the others left unsaid was the reality that for decades, successive administrations, including the one in which Mr. Biden served as vice president, tried hard and failed to rein in North Korea’s nuclear aspirations. It is clear that neither conventional diplomacy nor saber-rattling has worked when it comes to North Korea.
Furthermore, much to his credit, despite forging a relationship with Kim that he refers to as “a great friendship,” President Trump has not dialed down the crushing sanctions on North Korea, and he resolutely walked away from a bad deal at the summit in Hanoi.
President Trump has placed enormous emphasis on his personal chemistry with Kim, hoping to use this relationship to strike a deal that has eluded American leaders for decades. Only time will tell whether this gambit will succeed in getting the despotic ruler of this most isolated country on earth to agree to give up his nuclear arsenal — and allow the United States to verify that it had really done so.
However, as long as the biting sanctions remain in place, America has nothing to lose — and everything to gain by trying some unconventional diplomacy. n
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