North Korea Shuffle

“Sometimes you have to walk,” President Trump told reporters, last week, after cutting short his Hanoi summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

The president’s critics pounced. NBC crowed that “Trump lost big.” One scholar writing for National Public Radio mocked the “American fantasy” of total North Korean nuclear disarmament as “more suited to an action movie than the reality of international negotiations.”

But others point out that eight hours after Trump pulled up wheels, North Korea scrambled to safely land the diplomatic crash characterizing their demands as “partial” sanctions relief. Trump’s hard line may already be softening North Korea’s position.

Duke University professor Peter Feaver says Trump “deserves credit for not overreacting” and offering “gracious and hopeful words about a future deal.” Even Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer hailed Tump’s decision, applauding, “President Trump did the right thing by walking away and not cutting a poor deal for the sake of a photo op.”

Political science professor John Tures sees a savvy side play at work. Writing for The Observer, he contends that pulling the plug in Hanoi sent “a message to the Chinese that Trump is not so desperate for a deal and is willing to risk a trade war to get a more favorable agreement for the United States.”

As if on cue, new reports suggest a US-China trade deal may be close at hand, including major Chinese concessions on protecting intellectual property rights. According to the Wall Street Journal, a Mar-a-Largo beach side summit between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping could come as early as March 27th.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross cautions, “It’s a little early for champagne.” But the bottles are chilled.

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