Under Trumps watch, peace in East Asia would be serendipity, and peace in the Middle East would be an outright miracle
After more than a year in office, Trump seems to be improvising his way through his presidency. Having had a large string of scandals, many reshuffles of staff and a large body of misquotes and false statements; he seems to be navigating the political landscape by assumption and gut reaction alone.
Shortly after taking office Trump famously provoked North Korea, using his 2017 UN speech as a threat to “totally destroy” the country. This prompted a public conflict of words between the two country's leaders. The insults continued, as did North Korea's missile launches, until a sudden turn around following the 2018 Winter Olympics. Kim Jong-Un expressed interest in meeting with the US president to discuss North Korea’s nuclear capabilities. Leading up to the meeting Trump mishandled the arrangement, cancelling a few weeks prior, just to backtrack and agree to meeting again.
Donald Trump’s strengths have always been forming business relationships, over selling deals and generating publicity. Being more spectacle than substance has obviously gained Trump notoriety, and is probably useful when schmoozing in a celebrity environment. But taking this light-hearted, socialising approach to a negotiation over nuclear weapons is particularly worrying.
This becomes increasingly worrying then when you look back at Donald Trump's comments following his previous business failures. He has stated “I do play with the bankruptcy laws” and “I’ve used the laws of this country to pare debt” ... “We'll have the company. We'll throw it into a chapter [of the US Bankruptcy Code]. We'll negotiate with the banks. We'll make a fantastic deal. You know, it's like on The Apprentice. It's not personal. It's just business.” Not having the best track record is one issue, but attempting to bring this care free attitude to the world of international relations is haphazard to say the least. This is not a business deal, and if something goes sour, bankruptcy or an easy buy out is not an option; if it is not properly resolved there could be dire consequences.
As early as 2013 Trump was also publicly questioning the financial cost to the US of supporting South Korean security. The USA’s military presence in Korea could be the true financial incentive for Trump in reaching out to North Korea. However if he adopts the same reckless attitude here, and attempts to cut back US support to South Korea for economic reasons, he could create a military power vacuum to the North’s benefit, potentially derailing peace and stability altogether.
However, this deal with North Korea is just part of larger peace efforts that Trump will have to make while in office. Trump pulling out of Iran’s nuclear deal and reinstating sanctions will only depreciate US-Iran relations further, and cause future negotiations to prove more difficult. This also puts extra strain on already tense relations with Iran; a country that is in support of the Syrian Government in the Syrian Civil War, opposing the US-backed armed factions across Northern Syria.
Middle Eastern relations are further complicated by Trump’s strong pro-Israel stance, solidified in his decision to declare the USA’s official recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in 2017. Unless Trump can miraculously negotiate a tighter nuclear deal with Iran, against all the strong Anti-US sentiment, relations with Iran and other countries in the region will likely become more complicated and fractious. This would further tarnish the USA’s image in the Middle East, making any diplomatic solution in the area even more distant.
Peace seems to have become a game of chance under Trump’s watch, especially taking into account his fondness for going off script and making excessive exaggerated claims. But the common ground of egocentric narcissism seen in both Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un makes peace in East Asia a more realistic outcome than in the Middle-East at least. However, considering the tremendous strain that sustained and difficult diplomatic relationships can require, successful peace talks may seem more the result of a happy coincidence than well negotiated foreign policy.