- Getty Images/Pool photo
- President Donald Trump has put his personal legacy on the line by meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
- If history is any indication, any perceived slight from Pyongyang could cause a meltdown.
- Trump responds harshly to perceived betrayals, as he recently did with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
- If North Korea doesn’t keep its nuclear promises, it could evoke a very harsh reaction from Trump, who has repeatedly vouched for Kim.
President Donald Trump has put his personal legacy on the line in meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un – and if history is any indication, any perceived slight from Pyongyang could cause a meltdown in the countries’ relations.
Trump’s move to meet with Kim has been hailed by world leaders as a great step toward peace, and Trump’s stated goal in taking the meeting was to disarm North Korea.
Trump’s White House maintains that moves to denuclearize will come in time, and early reports indicate Kim making good on his limited denuclearization promise to Trump. But North Korea has dropped out of similar talks time and time again.
Typically, Trump’s reaction to betrayal is harsh.
“This is the Trump playbook for dealing with foreign leaders,” a source close to Trump told the news website Axios’ Jonathan Swan.
“Trump does to other foreign leaders what he wishes they would do for him. On the positive side, it’s lavishing him with praise, rolling out the red carpet.”
Not only did Trump meet Kim – he embraced him. Trump quickly took North Korea’s side on bilateral military issues involving South Korea. Trump repeatedly praised Kim as “smart” and “talented” while whitewashing the most brutal regime on earth, making several apologies for North Korea’s despicable human-rights record.
Trump lavishing praise on Kim could lead to reciprocation and improved relations. But there’s a potentially dangerous alternative.
“On the flip side, Trump only respects force, only respects balls,” the source said. “And so if he’s going to go at somebody, he’s going to go at them in the way that he would respect somebody else going at him. No holds barred.”
A good recent example of Trump’s hot-and-cold temper came the day before the Kim summit. Trump had praised Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and played up their friendship, but upon leaving the G7 summit he torched him.
But with North Korea, Trump has extended himself further than ever before.
Trump said point-blank that he took the meeting and embraced Kim because he personally thought Kim was being straight with him. Instead of any verification mechanisms, Trump repeatedly pointed to his personal interactions with Kim.
So if North Korea doesn’t come through with its denuclearization pledges, if it makes extreme counterdemands of the US, if it is caught in a lie while claiming to denuclearize, Trump’s vouching for Kim will come under especially heavy scrutiny.
Under pressure and publicly defied by Kim, Trump could return to the “fire and fury” that saw the world on the brink of nuclear war throughout 2017.