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Everything Should Be on the Table in Korea

March 8, 2019 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

Virtually no one observing U.S. President Donald Trump’s
preparations for his second summit with North Korean Supreme Leader
Kim Jong Un imagined that the meeting last month would fail. The
president had invested so much—it would be hard to walk away.
In Singapore last year, he had accepted the thinnest of statements
as a victory.

That didn’t stop Trump from canceling the last meeting and final
lunch of his visit with Kim. His theatrical exit, he said,
reflected a substantive disagreement, though exactly what that was
remains in dispute. The parties publicly disagreed on how many
nuclear facilities would be closed down and how much sanctions
relief would be granted under the respective disarmament proposals.
More broadly, the president apparently pushed a quick grand bargain while Kim favored
a slower and more limited process.

Such confusion might reflect the fact that the two longtime
adversaries have only recently returned to the table. The United
States and North Korea had little sustained diplomatic contact
during the Barack Obama years, and the last six-party talks, in
2007, are even more distant. The North also may have sought to
emphasize the Trump-Kim discussions in hopes of taking advantage of
the U.S. president’s lack of experience.

However, it’s possible Trump was playing a deeper game. Abruptly
leaving while claiming that his North Korean counterpart had
offered too few concessions was an obvious bargaining tactic: Any
flea market aficionado knows walking away often wins a better deal.
Moreover, the president quieted domestic critics convinced he had
been bewitched by Kim. Consequently, Trump will have an easier time
selling any future agreement at home.

Failure in Hanoi
reinforces the need for bolder future commitments to
peace.

In any case, negotiations should continue. In fact, both the
president and the secretary of state insisted that progress had
been made despite the disappointing outcome. However, success
requires both sides to scale back expectations. The United States
should abandon hopes for a diplomatic Big Bang, essentially trading
all nuclear weapons for all sanctions. North Korea is not going to
rely on America’s good wishes. With obvious logic, the North
Koreans have insisted on first improving bilateral relations and
regional dynamics before moving to denuclearization.

However, the North must also recognize that the United States is
unlikely to sacrifice its most important form of leverage,
sanctions, without receiving corresponding benefits. Just how
disarmament steps balance against sanctions will have to be
determined through sustained negotiations, not a short chat between
the two principals. Trump may drive the summit process, but he
appears to listen to others before making a final deal.

Everything should be on the table in future negotiations, …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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