Pollak: With North Korea, Trump Showed Sometimes Art of the Deal Is Walking Away

Sean Rayford/Getty Images
Sean Rayford/Getty Images

President Donald Trump showed Thursday that sometimes the “art of the deal” is walking away from negotiations, as he suddenly canceled a highly anticipated June summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore.

In his letter to Kim on Thursday morning, Trump said that he was canceling the summit because of “tremendous anger and open hostility” in recent statements by the regime.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo added, when he testified just minutes later in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, that the North Koreans had not responded to American requests to prepare for the meeting. (The Americans were fully prepared, he said: “I think we’re rockin’.”)

Regardless of the reason, Trump’s decision to cancel the meeting was a powerful move that increases his leverage in  the ongoing confrontation.

First and foremost, Trump was able to pocket several important concessions from North Korea without giving the Kim regime anything in return. He canceled the summit merely hours after North Korea had destroyed what it said was its only nuclear testing facility, and after securing the release of three U.S. hostages.

Trump’s critics, including many Obama administration veterans, had warned that the president would give Kim the prestige of a face-to-face meeting without winning any concessions. In fact, the exact opposite has now happened.

Americans are safer as a result: no longer will the Kim regime, or any other, be misled into thinking that seizing Americans is a way to win face time with the President of the United States or exert pressure in negotiations.

Second, the crushing sanctions that the Trump administration has persuaded the rest of the world, including China, to impose on North Korea remain in place. That means the Kim regime is going to have to come back to the table.

True, the risk of war remains — but it had never faded. And Trump showed Kim he is not afraid of the alternative to a deal: “You talk about your nuclear capabilities,” he wrote to Kim Thursday, “but ours are so massive and powerful that I pray to God they will never have to be used.”

If only President Barack Obama had shown the same courage, and walked away from negotiations with Iran when necessary, the final deal might have been much better.

Trump left open the possibility of a meeting with Kim — “[P]ease do not hesitate to call me or write,” he said — but he ensured that when that meeting does happen, it will be on terms more favorable for the U.S., and for peace itself.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named to Forward’s 50 “most influential” Jews in 2017. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

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