Daniel R. DePetris
Or will Bolton and company get the last laugh?
America and North Korea: Are We Headed for a Freeze-for-Freeze Nuclear Deal?
President Donald Trump is nothing but unconventional. On North Korea, Trump saw twenty-five years of failed policy and realized that something significantly dramatic needed to be done if the United States had any chance at addressing the roots of the problem: a cataclysmic chasm of mistrust between Washington and Pyongyang and two positions on the nuclear issue that were seemingly irreconcilable. So, in typical Trumpian fashion, he tossed the rule book in the trash and drew up his own play. Meeting with the North Korean head-of-state, something which would have been blasphemy with any other president, was now a regular part of doing business.
Outside of Trump’s personal relationship with Kim Jong-un, however, the U.S. strategy has remained largely static. Washington is still hoping—maybe even praying—for North Korea’s full and complete denuclearization on the fastest timeline possible. The Trump administration has not been receptive to granting Pyongyang any sanctions relief whatsoever, stressing repeatedly that the North Koreans can forget about more cash in their pockets as long as they remain nuclear-capable. Trump’s eagerness for a big deal during the summit in Hanoi not only signaled impatience to Kim, but guaranteed both sides would walk away empty-handed.