May 3, 2018 | By Ivo H. Daalder

This Week's Reads: Four Things to Remember about North Korea Talks

Note: This was originally published by the Chicago Tribune. Read the full article here.

It's been an historic week on the Korean peninsula. The North-South summit between Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in was nothing short of extraordinary. Pictures and videos gave us firsthand experience of what it's like to watch history unfold, and the excitement in the air reminded one of 1989, when we witnessed the momentous thawing of frozen relations between East and West Germany.

The welcome meeting at the DMZ gave everybody something to root for—after all, leaders meeting each other is much better than leaders shouting or tweeting at each other—but there remain reasons for skepticism about the talks.

Before we celebrate prematurely, let's keep some perspective in mind:
Continue reading at the Chicago Tribune.

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What North and South Korea Can Learn from German Reunification

James Goldgeier / The Washington Post

Goldgeier tempers reactions to the Korean summit declaration that the two countries would be moving toward unification by pointing out that declaring it doesn’t make the prospect imminent. He juxtaposes the process of unifying East and West Germany, which had a few key elements that North and South Korea lack. First, East Germany lost support from its biggest backer, the Soviet Union, whereas China has not abandoned North Korea. Second, the United States was a major backer of West Germany within NATO, yet it’s hard to tell whether the US is as committed to the alliance with South Korea today. Goldgeier concludes that it is vital for each country’s supporting great power to be involved as negotiations move forward.

How to Understand what’s Happening in North Korea

Nicholas Kristof / The New York Times

According to Kristof, President Trump’s tightening of sanctions and belligerent rhetoric in the lead up to the Korean summit was meant to intimidate Kim Jong-un, but mostly alarmed South Korean President Moon Jae-in, galvanizing him to undertake the successful Olympic diplomacy that resulted in the summit. In regards to the Trump-Kim meeting, Kristof expects the two leaders to present themselves as historic peacemakers and sign some kind of declaration calling for peace and denuclearization, although it’s less likely that North Korea will give up its nukes now that it sees Trump poised to tear up the Iran nuclear deal. That said, in the meantime, North Korea will probably halt all nuclear missile testing and, in exchange, China and South Korea will quietly ease sanctions, “…and Kim will get what he always wanted, the legitimacy of being treated as a world leader, as an equal, and as the ruler of a de facto nuclear state,” Kristof concludes.

The Inter-Korean Summit Has Only Raised the Stakes for Trump

Victor Cha / The Washington Post

Attaining peace on the Korean Peninsula hinges on Kim Jong-un’s true intentions regarding his nuclear weapons and President Trump’s ability to persuade the North Korean leader to part with his armaments, Cha writes. The inter-Korean summit highlighted the “indispensability of the United States to a diplomatic solution for peace and an end to the nuclear crisis on the peninsula.” The Koreans have declared peace several times in the past, but the US is required as a signatory to end the 1953 Korean War armistice. According to Cha, Trump is unlikely to sign without the end of the nuclear weapons program in North Korea, and if Kim refuses this demand, their upcoming meeting will be a clear, high-stakes test of the president’s self-proclaimed negotiating skills.

Trump Rebrands Diplomatic Norms as Events in Asia, Europe and Elsewhere Spin on His Axis

Anne Gearan / The Washington Post

The world is adjusting to President Trump turning the traditional step-by-step process of major international negotiations on its head. Last week, Trump credited himself for the remarkable summit between the leaders of North and South Korea. “The dramatic turn of events on the Korean Peninsula was the capstone to a week that crystallized the ways Trump has established his foreign policy approach as one that rests largely on the pride he takes in busting the old conventions of diplomatic negotiations and remaking them in his image,” Gearan writes.

China’s Challenge to Democracy

David Runciman / The Wall Street Journal

“Western democracy is now confronted by a form of authoritarianism that is far more pragmatic than its communist predecessors,” Runciman writes. During the Cold War, liberal democracies held the clear advantage over their ideological rivals, delivering general prosperity along with respect for human rights, but in the past four decades, a new generation of autocrats in China have been trying to mirror the “results plus respect” model–and it’s been working. He points out that since the 1980s, nondemocratic China has made strikingly greater progress in reducing poverty and increasing life expectancy than has democratic India. In addition to improved living standards, there has been a drive for collective national dignity that demands greater respect for China itself. All this has fueled rapid economic growth, an expansion of the middle class, and demonstrated that pragmatic authoritarianism is capable of planning for the long-term better than democracies, which are bound to be fickle, Runciman argues.

How Trump’s Mixed Signals Complicate America’s Role in the World

Max Fisher / The New York Times

President Trump may believe his unpredictability and opposition to diplomacy help the United States achieve its foreign policy goals, namely the denuclearization of North Korea and Iran, but Fisher argues Trump’s actions instead may convey a very different message: Rogue states are best served by defying and threatening the US, and the days of the US playing the role of mediator and convener of negotiations are ending. Last week’s inter-Korea summit hints at this declining American influence over negotiations, while some analysts expect that if Trump walks away from the Iran deal, the Europeans and Iranians will find some accommodations that excludes him as well. “The clearest narrative may be that the Americans cannot necessarily be trusted to uphold their commitments…but they can be, as Mr. Kim showed, coerced and deterred,” Fisher writes.

Playing with Fire: Iran Deal Looms over Rising Oil Price

Ed Crooks / The Financial Times

President Trump’s looming Iran deal decision could have a significant impact on the oil market, according to Crooks. A strong global economy combined with supply curbs implemented by OPEC and other leading oil-producing nations have upped the price of crude oil to $75 a barrel for the first time since 2014. US withdrawal from the Iran deal could raise prices even more by heightening tensions in the Middle East and producing a specter of military conflict. “As long as the uncertainty over the US position persists, a risk premium is likely to remain in the mark, keeping prices higher,” Crooks writes.

French President Emmanuel Macron Addresses US Congress

France in the United States

Last Wednesday, French President Emmanuel Macron delivered an address at a joint meeting of Congress that emphasized the special relationship between the US and France while simultaneously touting the values of liberal, transatlantic, multilateral cooperation to which President Trump’s rhetoric often runs counter. “Today, the international community needs to step up our game and build the 21st century world order, based on the perennial principles we establish together after World War II,” Macron said. Click the link in the title to watch the full speech with a transcript.

McMaster and Commander

Patrick Radden Keefe / The New Yorker

“Trump’s combination of bullheaded ignorance and counter-suggestibility makes him singularly difficult to counsel,” Keefe writes, yet Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster, the impeccable warrior-intellectual, answered the call of duty and agreed to become the president’s national security advisor. As it turned out, Trump found the intellectual side of the warrior-intellectual annoying, according to Keefe. “What does it mean to be the national security advisor when some of the greatest threats confronting the nation may be the proclivities and limitations of the President himself?”

Donald Trump is Right: China Must Play by the Rules

Jamil Anderlini / The Financial Times

Anderlini admits that President Trump is correct when he says China does not play by the same trade and investment rules as the West and that past attempts to deal with this imbalance have not worked. The reason why this imbalance was not a concern until very recently is because China’s companies hardly invested outside its borders, Anderlini writes. But by 2017, Chinese direct investment in the EU was exceeding direct investment the other way around by a factor of four. If Trump is serious about leveling the playing field for foreign companies in China, he’s going to need allies.

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