Opinion | Hamilton: Hanoi Summit: A Tale of Two Delegations
Before two heads-of-state meet in a highly publicized Summit environment, much pre-Summit negotiation is conducted by their respective diplomatic/national security delegations. The relationship between the heads-of-state and their pre-Summit negotiating delegations is like that between Principal and Agent.
One of the many nice features of being on a high-level negotiating team is enjoying lavish meals and cocktail parties in five-star hotels, all for the purpose of engendering a spirit of bonhomie between the delegations.
The first step toward a Summit is for the diplomats on each side to determine if there is any chance of the proposed Summit ending in a joint communiqué announcing a win-win outcome for both sides. If such a joint communiqué does not appear to be possible, then the plans for a Summit are scrapped. Alternatively, the delegations might go back to their heads-of-state and ask for new instructions that might be the basis for a compromise leading to the desired end-of-Summit “happy-talk” communiqué.
Sure enough, in advance of the Hanoi Summit between President Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, U.S. and North Korean diplomats met dozens of times. At this point, we do not know how many times the delegations came to an impasse and had to go back to their Principals for altered instructions. But what we do know by the simple logic of deduction is that the two diplomatic delegations found enough common ground that they told their Principals that a Summit satisfactory to both sides could be achieved. Otherwise, neither side would have agreed to the Hanoi Summit.
But, as history records, Kim Jong-un did not behave in the way that the North Korean delegation told the U.S. delegation that Kim would behave. Deciding that no deal was better than the bad deal being offered by Kim Jong-un, President Trump said “thanks, but no thanks,” and headed home, leaving Kim Jong-un and his delegation with egg all over their loss of “face.”
Apparently, the failure of the Hanoi Summit made Kin Jong-un unhappy. So unhappy that the North Korean dictator ordered the arrest of his entire diplomatic delegation. Now we learn that Kim Jong-un’s top negotiator and four of his subordinates have been executed. Two lower level staffers, to include an interpreter, were sentenced to long terms in a reeducation camp, a slower form of execution.
By contrast, the members of the U.S. negotiating delegation continue to enjoy their well-paying jobs and the rather luxurious life normally enjoyed by diplomats around the world. They are in no danger of being arrested or executed.
This Tale of Two Delegations points up one of the major differences between a Democracy and a Communist dictatorship. On the Communist side, failure is not an option. On the U.S. side, President Trump got to make the point that his version of “The Art of the Deal” does not include capitulation. The U.S. delegation did not even bother to engage in the usual diplomatic double-speak: “the talks were frank and yet constructive.”
Hopefully, the North Korean delegation enjoyed the lavish meals and the five-star hotels while they lasted. Recruiting a new team of diplomats might be a hard sell for Kim Jong-un.
Nationally syndicated columnist, William Hamilton, is a laureate of the Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame, the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame, the Nebraska Aviation Hall of Fame, the Colorado Aviation Hall of Fame, and the Oklahoma University Army ROTC Wall of Fame. Dr. Hamilton is the author of The Wit and Wisdom of William Hamilton: the Sage of Sheepdog Hill, Pegasus Imprimis Press (2017). “Central View,” can also be seen at: http://www.central-view.com.
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