President Donald Trump’s visit to North Korea says as much about the conduct of American diplomacy as it does about peace on the Korean Peninsula. Trump bears an uncanny resemblance to the boy in the story of the “Emperor’s New Clothes,” the emperor in this case being American foreign policy. Big NATO partners don’t spend enough on defense, wars in the Middle East have been expensive failures, China flouts trade rules, but until Trump, most people in Washington were too polite to point these things out.
This goes for North Korea.People think Afghanistan is the longest running American war, but that dubious honor falls to Korea. The Korean War was only suspended under a 1953 armistice. It’s one reason why the North is reluctant to give up its nuclear weapons, which they see as an insurance policy against America deciding to suspend the armistice and resume fighting. That sounds crazy, but they remember George W. Bush’s “axis of evil” and the invasion of Iraq.Trump is good at identifying problems in ways that voters understand. Whether Trump is as good at solutions is another matter.
There are many doubts about this, given the often-chaotic approach to policymaking by the White House. That said, the criticism that Trump should not meet Kim because this elevates him too much begs the question of what are the alternatives?
For reasons good and bad, Trump seems to have an affinity with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. It’s not a very nice regime, and talking to its leader offends some traditional foreign policy leaders, but it is no coincidence and probably good that Trump showed up right after Chinese President Xi Jinping visited North Korea.
Trump is unorthodox — that’s part of why he was elected — and he isn’t the first president to interject himself into a major foreign policy problem to kick start talks. Sometimes it works. Given America’s lack of progress with the North, maybe unorthodox isn’t all bad.
James Andrew Lewis is senior vice president at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
If you can't see this reader poll, please refresh your page.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: For reasons good and bad, Donald Trump seems to have an affinity with Kim Jong Un