The question now is whether Trump will write his own playbook and reject Kim’s fake smile diplomacy or fall into North Korea’s trap like his predecessors.
Following North Korea these days gives even the most seasoned observer whiplash as both sides seemingly shift from one extreme to another sometimes in twenty-four hours. Yet one thing is certain. North Korea is testing United States President Donald Trump to see how much bad faith he is willing to tolerate in the name of engagement. The Trump administration must see through North Korean leader’s Kim Jong-un’s games and insist that he make a strategic decision to denuclearize followed by tangible and irreversible actions towards that end goal.
Kim is using a well-worn playbook that his father and grandfather used to great success. Namely, promise denuclearization while insisting on phased implementation, which is code for backloading North Korean obligations and front loading concessions from the U.S. and its allies. It’s an approach that’s been remarkably successful for Pyongyang, but a failure for Washington.