If you were concerned Trump would cave just to say he got a deal, you can relax:
U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday he had walked away from a nuclear deal at his summit with Kim Jong Un because of unacceptable demands from the North Korean leader to lift punishing U.S.-led sanctions.
Trump said two days of talks in the Vietnamese capital Hanoi had made good progress in building relations and on the key issue of denuclearization, but it was important not to rush into a bad deal.
“It was all about the sanctions,” Trump said at a news conference after the talks were cut short. “Basically, they wanted the sanctions lifted in their entirety, and we couldn’t do that.”
The United Nations and the United States ratcheted up sanctions on North Korea when the reclusive state undertook a series of nuclear and ballistic missile tests in 2017, cutting off its main sources hard cash.
Both Trump and Kim left the venue of their talks, the French-colonial-era Metropole hotel, without attending a planned lunch together.
“Sometimes you have to walk, and this was just one of those times,” Trump said, adding “it was a friendly walk”.
Predictably, Reuters labels this turn of events “a setback for Trump,” and references his reputation as a “self-styled deal maker” – the obvious implication being that Mr. Deal Maker blew it.
Reuters should go back and read Art of the Deal. One of the core principles – not just of Trump’s negotiating style but of anyone who understands smart negotiating – is that you have to be prepared to walk if the other party just isn’t willing to go where you need them to be.
A complete lifting of the sanctions would have left the U.S. and the West with basically no leverage at all in pressuring North Korea on nuclear issues or on human rights questions. Easing them some in exchange for a verifiable commitment to get rid of nukes would have been a start, but there are many more problems with North Korea besides the nukes.
Once the other side gets everything it wants, why should they give you anything further. Trump seems to have understood that Kim was trying to go big right at the start without ponying up, and the only thing a smart deal maker can do in a situation like that is to walk away.
This reminds me of the Reagan-Gorbachev summit in Reykjavik, Iceland in 1985. There were high hopes for a broad-ranging anti-nuclear treaty, but Gorbachev insisted Reagan completely give up the missile defense system known back then as the Strategic Defense Initiative. The American left wanted Reagan to give it up too, but he wisely refused, and the result was that both sides walked away from the table. No deal.
The American media freaked out that the world was ending. Ironically, missile defenses are something we need very badly today, in large part because of North Korea. It’s a good thing Reagan didn’t abandon them (although Obama tried to), and it’s a good thing Trump didn’t just take away the only real stick we have in dealing with the Norks.
The media spin is already shaping up to be that Trump “failed” to get a deal. No. The offer on the table was a bad one, and Trump wisely refused to take it. Barack Obama should have done that in his dealing with Iran, but he was determined to sign anything he could regardless of how good or bad it was, and the Iranians knew that so they played him.
That was a failure. This is looking out for the interests of the United States and of the free world. It’s nice to once again have a president who’s willing to do that.