On Thursday, social media troll extraordinaire, failed pro football team owner, and man who is half responsible for producing Don Jr., Donald Trump, regretfully canceled his planned dictator-to-aspiring-dictator pow wow with next level propagandist, starver of millions, and nuke-wielding irritated toddler, Kim Jong-Un.
The letter Trump wrote to Kim was a work of accidental comedic genius to the extent a sitting U.S. President is so blissfully unaware of his own ineptitude and borderline illiteracy that he actually said the following in an official diplomatic communiqué of enormous historical import:
You talk about nuclear capabilities, but ours are so massive and powerful that I pray to God they will never have to be used.
If you change your mind having to do with this most important summit, please do not hesitate to call me or write.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but that is borderline retarded (“like, really retarded“).
And like most of what Trump says/writes/tweets (and there’s little difference between the three), it was hard to tell whether he was serious or whether he was employing his usual “strategy” towards international relations which involves what, in his mind, is a cunning game of three-dimensional chess, but what to everyone else just feels like being trolled by the leader of the free world who, in the course of trolling everyone else, is also inadvertently trolling himself.
There’s a sense in which this “works”. He’s always said the correct way to conduct diplomacy (and also war) is to make the enemy (which, in Trump’s eyes, is everyone) think he’s an unhinged lunatic. This is something South Korea is all too familiar with and not just as it relates to the North. Recall what Trump reportedly told Robert Lighthizer regarding trade negotiations with Seoul last autumn (via Axios):
Trump: “You’ve got 30 days, and if you don’t get concessions then I’m pulling out.
Lighthizer: “Ok, well I’ll tell the Koreans they’ve got 30 days.
Trump: “No, no, no. That’s not how you negotiate. You don’t tell them they’ve got 30 days. You tell them, ‘This guy’s so crazy he could pull out any minute.'”
Trump again: “That’s what you tell them: Any minute. And by the way, I might. You guys all need to know I might.”
Again, this sometimes “works”, but not quite in the way he thinks it does. He thinks the rest of the world views him as a hard-nosed, shrewd negotiator who is willing to go all kamikaze in the service of furthering his “America first” agenda. In reality, the rest of the world views him like Rex Tillerson views him – that is, as a hopeless moron who is perpetually teetering on the edge of doing something that will have irreversible negative consequences for humanity in general and thus must be pacified in the near-term in the interest of ensuring the long-term survival of the planet.
In that sense, he really is a “unifier”.
And so, in the roughly 48 hours since Trump told a press briefing that not only was the meeting with Kim cancelled, but that the U.S. military is all locked and loaded and that South Korea and Japan were going need to wire him the money to pay for any possibly imminent strikes on North Korea, South Korea’s Moon found himself meeting with Kim in Panmunjom to try and sort out what the fuck just happened.
Just to give you an idea of how this has morphed into a situation where Kim is most assuredly the saner of the two leaders at the center of this global soap opera, compare the following two pictures of meetings with Moon.
Moon and Trump on Wednesday:
Moon and Kim on Saturday:
Yeah. And do bear in mind that while the Saturday meeting between Moon and Kim revolved solely around getting the Trump summit back on track and how to implement the terms of the recently agreed peace deal, Moon’s Wednesday meeting with Trump (or at least the post-meeting press briefing) was predictably nuts, with Trump going completely off script to elaborate on a conspiracy theory about “spies in my campaign“.
The Saturday meeting between Moon and Kim came hours after Trump tweeted that the Summit might take place as planned on June 12, after all.
We are having very productive talks with North Korea about reinstating the Summit which, if it does happen, will likely remain in Singapore on the same date, June 12th., and, if necessary, will be extended beyond that date.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 26, 2018
And that tweet was itself a rejoinder to North Korea insisting that despite Trump’s letter, Kim remains willing to meet the U.S. anytime, anywhere (subject to constraints related to his Soviet-era planes).
Here’s Reuters on the Saturday meeting:
South Korean President Moon Jae-in held a surprise meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Saturday to ensure the upcoming high-stakes summit between Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump is a success, South Korean officials said.
The unannounced meeting is the latest dramatic turn in a week of diplomatic flip-flops surrounding an unprecedented summit between the United States and North Korea, and the strongest sign yet that the two Korean leaders are trying to keep the on-again off-again summit on track.
Their two-hour talks at the Panmunjom border village came a month after they held the first inter-Korean summit in more than a decade at the same venue on April 27 and declared they would work toward a nuclear-free Korean peninsula and formally ending the 1950-53 Korean War.
“The two leaders candidly exchanged views about making the North Korea-U.S. summit a successful one and about implementing the Panmunjom Declaration,” South Korea’s presidential spokesman said in a statement. He did not confirm how the secret meeting was arranged or which side asked for it.
One of the photos released by the presidential Blue House on Saturday showed Moon and Kim hugging each other after their meeting at Tongilgak, the North’s building in the truce village. The previous summit was held at the southern side of the border.
And here’s the “hugs” picture Reuters alludes to:
Ultimately, it’s impossible to know what Trump is thinking and thus whether the summit (and the value of those commemorative coins) can be salvaged.
And while he would invariably tell you that’s part and parcel of his “strategy”, I’d be inclined to say it’s just indicative of the extent to which he’s predisposed to making already surreal situations even more bizarre on the way to outcomes that are inherently unpredictable.