How the Trump-Kim Summit Will Break the Rules of Peacemaking

How the Trump-Kim Summit Will Break the Rules of Peacemaking
U.S. President Donald Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in shake hands during a bilateral meeting at the Blue House in Seoul, South Korea, Nov. 7, 2017 (AP photo by Andrew Harnik).

Peacemaking is generally a quiet and deliberative business. Professional mediators typically approach international standoffs and civil wars in a methodical and low-key manner. They assume that any sudden moves or big news stories about a peace process will throw everything off-track. If you ever meet a group of mediators from organizations like the United Nations, you will notice that they have a penchant for long silences, oblique comments and inscrutable glances.

Donald J. Trump is known for exactly none of these things. The U.S. president’s extraordinarily high-profile decision to negotiate with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un over Pyongyang’s nuclear program has thrown seasoned diplomats and international officials into a conceptual spin. Can a man whose two main characteristics are crudity and brashness possibly pull off such an exceedingly complex negotiation process?

Trump shocked even his own officials in early March by agreeing to meet Kim. The president, whose sense of theater is acute, surely knew that this would be a wonderful, dramatic coup. But professionals who have set up much less sensitive negotiations in the past worry about the behind-the-scenes questions.

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