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A TV screen at Seoul Station shows images of U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Seoul, South Korea, May 2, 2017 (AP Photo by Ahn Young-joon).

Is Trump Changing His Approach to Dealing With His Fellow Leaders?

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

U.S. President Donald Trump’s latest comments on North Korean leader Kim Jong Un suggest a new tactic: Rather than asserting primacy and disparaging other countries’ policies, Trump has tried to convey empathy for Kim’s predicament. Perhaps Trump is following Chinese President Xi Jinping’s advice on how to keep Kim from stepping over the brink into conflict. But it could say more about Trump’s evolving understanding of the burdens of leadership.

In recent days, as tensions with North Korea have risen, Trump has used some unexpected language to describe Kim. He’s called the 33-year-old Kim “a pretty smart cookie,” conveying some admiration for the young tyrant’s ability to consolidate his power amid challenging circumstances after succeeding his late father in 2011. The president has now said he’d be “honored” to meet the North Korean leader, causing some heartburn in diplomatic circles. To be sure, Trump understands that the stakes are high, given North Korea’s latest aggressive and risky behavior, including threats to use its ballistic missiles against American interests and facilities. But he’s taking a different approach than he has toward other leaders. ...

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