New York real estate wheeler-dealer and erstwhile international diplomat Donald Trump has no idea how he has been suckered into what might be called Dramatis Asianis.
Worse, many Americans who just love Trump’s loud and threatening tough talk view his conduct in heroic terms, the way US leadership should have been talking to Asia for years.
Focusing now on the long-running comic opera with North Korea, Trump, who already believes he should be awarded the Nobel for bringing that country’s leader to a prospective summit, would do well to realize how he has been “played” not just by the guy he once called “Little Rocket Man” but by China and South Korea with additional orchestration from Russia.
As Kim Jung-un developed his apparent nuclear threat to the US, Trump screamed threats of Sturm und Drang if North Korea even dared one move to threaten us.
Kim displayed some deft PR by refusing to kowtow to Trump’s white-hot rhetoric and returning the verbal fire in tones that mirrored Trump’s bellicose language.
What followed is grist for a Broadway musical.
Kim knows that if he launched a missile in our direction, North Korea would be totally leveled in a matter of hours.
He also understands the US is almost always willing to engage in public debate before taking any major action. That talk suits the PR needs of American politicians.
Wily politicians in Asia have long read our ways extremely well. They know how far to take us in the back and forth threats designed for public consumption, while carefully figuring when to shift gears or back off.
In the case of Trump vs. North Korea, the US has demonstrated once more his ignorance of international negotiation and certainly his disrespect for those in Asia. Trump boasted that he requires little prep time for the Singapore summit, saying it's more of an attitude thing.
Without question, neither China nor South Korea were ever interested in military action against North Korea. That goes for Vladimir Putin, as well.
What’s more, they know how to get on with each other while “handling” the boastful current president of the US.
As the rhetorical show proceeded, allowances were made for Trump’s need to see himself as controlling the drama. Smart leaders in China and South Korea figured how to calm matters, while giving Trump a feeling of personal triumph and creating a chance for everyone to celebrate contributions to peace at the big meeting in Singapore.
The real questions:
1 What will North Korea get for cooperating?
2. Who will pay for whatever they get?
3. Will North Korea be welcomed into the larger society of nations the same as Gadaffi and Libya were after they promised George Bush to drop their nuke activity only to be knocked off by Barack Obama?
4. How will Trump satisfy his narcissistic need for praise for the summit, even as Special Counsel Robert Mueller may be ready to spring a series of subpoenas on the presidential desk?
Having been conspicuously sucked into the Asian trap but believing his loud threats “fixed” everything, Trump’s unpredictable conduct in the weeks ahead should concern people around the world and certainly in the US, which he thinks he’s making great again.
It must not be overlooked that our president is willing to grant equal "star" status to one of the most ruthless dictators in the world, a man who presides over a national gulag.
Trump suggested that Kim may be invited to the White House, if things go well at the Singapore summit.
Things have already gone very well for the North Korean leader, who will make the most of how the clueless Trump gobbled up his PR bait.
Joseph J. Honick is an international consultant to business and government and writes for many publications. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org