Thursday, May 10, 2018

Obituary: The Maximum Pressure Policy

Joseph DeThomas,

image (not from article) from

Kim Jong Un has to be given a great deal of credit for tactical diplomatic acumen. He began 2018 totally isolated and under severe economic and military pressure. He had no reason to believe any of the main participants would relent in sanctions pressure and he had reason to fear that they would lament but do nothing to halt any ill-conceived US military action. In five short months, he has totally reversed the diplomatic momentum of the situation. While he is still under sanctions pressure, he has eliminated any hope the US could resort to military action and maintain its alliance with the ROK. He has likely shifted China’s position back to its more traditional semi-supportive approach to the DPRK, especially as long as Kim refrains from further provocations, and he has isolated President Trump should the President wish to return to a policy of maximum pressure.

Kim did this through very slick public diplomacy  [JB emphasis] in which he shifted his image from that of a comic book villain to that of a normal and quite approachable statesman. At the same time, he made himself the center of the diplomatic geometry of the Korean Peninsula. He began the year as the target of diplomacy. He has emerged this spring as its prime mover by dealing with each of his opponents bilaterally—offering them what they wanted in isolation from the others and by leaving Donald Trump until last, with Japanese Prime Minister Abe still on the sidelines, ignored by all actors. ...

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