It does not take to be a rocket scientist to anticipate the failure of the short lived Trump-Kim friendship story that abruptly came to an end in Vietnam. The simple fact is that leaders do not negotiate; leaders sign whatever was negotiated by their diplomats before – usually after long and difficult bilateral talks. That is the reality.
The much-publicised meeting between the leaders of the US and North Korea ended up in a fiasco and both leaders knew that beforehand. And yet, they happily arrived at the negotiating table in Hanoi, each for his own reasons.
For Kim Jong-un this was a great opportunity to pass the message to his starving nation that the “Supreme Leader” is an equal with the American president. National pride instead of prime rib!
Against this was Donald J. Trump, who acting as a businessman, attempted to prove tough and determined caring only for the interests of the country in an effort to divert the US’ public attention away from the testimony of his former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, to Congress while he gave a clear hint of what may follow in the US’ trade negotiations with China.
The tactic chosen by Trump to face international challenges looks, so far, business inspired. He raised the public’s expectations for the talks with North Korea although he knew that the only leverage that Kim has is his vast nuclear arsenal. This means that unless Kim gets everything he is asking for in advance, he will not concede one inch.
For both Kim and the North Korean Communist party leadership, giving up their nuclear arsenal would mean unconditional surrender to the Americans. Trump went to Hanoi knowing that Kim would never accept his “take it or leave it” proposal and thus he knew that there would be no deal.
While Kim returned to his country figuring by now his day after, Trump passed his message to the American people, including Wall Street, that he is in charge. He also gave to the Chinese a sense of what the upcoming US-Chinese trade talks might end-up.
Any businessman with a little vision can foresee that in 20-30 years the planet will be dominated by the Chinese and the only way to avoid it is to contain China. Trump understands that and the only way to contain Beijing is to ban Chinese products and services in the Western world.
Trump also understands that events move swiftly, and time is running against him. Therefore, the first logical step to take will be to raise expectations with the view of normalising trade relations with China. Second logical step may be to lead negotiations to failure. From there on, the goal is likely to be the achievement of a unanimous total embargo of Chinese products by the democratic world and a freeze of their assets.
To attain this, Trump will have to deal with three big players.
He will have to find a way to deal with Russia and Vladimir Putin, possibly by combining NATO with the Moscow-led Collective Security Treaty Organization made up of most of the former Soviet republics. In this endeavor, Germany could play an important role provided Europe and the US find a way forward to deal with one another. Despite differences, that may prove not very hard.
The most difficult player is Wall Street. However, American entrepreneurs might find in Russia what they are losing in China. This may be facilitator for things to move forward.
Once Trump finds a way to deal with both Russia and Wall Street things with China may be simpler. This will be, however, a high stake and extremely dangerous exercise, as China may appear at the negotiating table displaying its nukes, as they will be the only real guarantee in this survival game.