Now that Fox News has awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to Trump, it’s time to go over what has happened thus far with North Korea and what is likely to happen from here on out. Here’s the timeline.
1. Trump and Kim Jong-un exchange rocket launches, military maneuvers, nuclear tests, insults, and other hysterics, so the world gets worried something disastrous might happen. This enhances the domestic position and international profile of both participants.
2. The South Korean President—elected on a platform of better relations with the North—takes the occasion of the Olympics to try to calm the situation.
3. Kim seizes the opportunity and opens a full-scale charm offensive toward the South. Kim’s sister easily bests Mike Pence in the Olympic charm event.
4. Trump reverses decades of US policy and agrees to a one-on-one meeting with Kim without pre-conditions. Score 1 for Kim.
5. South Korea’s president, seeing Trump’s threats and how little South Korea’s welfare figured into US policy, realizes he can’t count on the US as a reliable ally. This is a strong incentive to conclude a peace process agreement with the North. Score 1 more for Kim.
6. For US consumption Kim has now been declared “very honorable” and Trump is a hero for resolving the situation. The negotiation is considered a success before it has begun. On the basis of negotiating position, score 1 more for Kim.
7. The most probable outcome is a staged denuclearization of North Korea in exchange for a draw-down of US military personnel and equipment in the South. The “staged denuclearization” we’ve seen many times before; the US military disengagement is new. Trump exults over the money saved. Score 2 for Kim.
8. The final situation essentially replaces US influence in South Korea with North Korean influence. Further this is one more step in the US disengagement from Asia to the benefit of China. Score 1 more for Kim, 4 for Xi Jinping.
9. Final score: Kim 6, Xi 4, US 0