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Three Reasons Why Diplomacy with North Korea Will Remain Difficult

July 16, 2018 in Economics

By John Glaser

John Glaser

One of the few tangible victories the Trump administration could
point to in its diplomacy with North Korea was a pledge from
Pyongyang to help repatriate the remains of U.S. soldiers
killed in the war. It was a kind of easy lay-up, serving as a
confidence-building measure and a signal of good faith as the
administration hammers out the details on the joint communique Trump and Kim Jong-un signed
at their summit meeting in June.

On Thursday, however, North Korean officials stood America up,
failing to even show up for a planned meeting to discuss the logistics of
repatriating the war dead (the meeting eventually happened on Sunday, July 15).
Furthermore, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was caught in an
embarrassing diplomatic gaffe on his latest confidence-building
attempt to negotiate with the Hermit Kingdom, with North Koreans
releasing a statement accusing the White House of pushing
a “unilateral and gangster-like demand for
denuclearization” that Pyongyang called “deeply
regrettable.”

As negotiations stumble
forward, we will likely continue to see embarrassing diplomatic
foul-ups for three key reasons.

This was nothing if not predictable. In fact, experts had warned
from the beginning that the vast, yawning gap in expectations
between the United States and North Korea, and the failure to
clarify terms—for instance, what does North Korea mean by
“denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula?”—would result in
problems down the line. Both parties failed to use the opportunity
of the summit to resolve these issues, opting instead for vague,
aspirational verbiage that clouded more than it clarified.

Pompeo must now awkwardly negotiate while maintaining some
continuity with the president’s naïve and overzealous descriptions
of the summit as a great success that effectively neutralized the North Korean
nuclear threat. As negotiations stumble forward, we will likely
continue to see embarrassing diplomatic foul-ups for three key
reasons.

First, skillful, nuanced statecraft is imperative for such high
stakes diplomacy, but it just isn’t in the Trump White House’s DNA.
Despite its made-for-TV appearance of success, the Trump-Kim summit
displayed competent stagecraft, but incompetent statecraft.

One key illustration of this is the utterly backward process
undertaken when negotiating with North Korea so far. Typically, a
face-to-face meeting between adversarial heads of state would come
at the very end of the process, instead of the beginning. The idea
is to conduct months and maybe even years of lower-level
discussions, mostly in secret to avoid unhelpful showboating that
can derail diplomacy. Once a basic framework is worked out that is
acceptable to both sides, higher level officials meet to hammer out
more of the details. Heads of state direct …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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