Prepping to Negotiate with North Korea



What advice would @mickeybergman, one of the people responsible for negotiating with the DPRK to release Otto Warmbier, give to President Trump ahead of his tete-a-tete with Kim Jung-Un?

In an interview with FP’s Sarah Wildman, print editor, and Dan De Luce, chief foreign policy correspondent, Bergman explores his experiences with non-state actor diplomacy in the grey area between states and individual actors.  And based on his past experience working with North Korean interlocutors, he explores strategies that would be important for any negotiation with North Korea.

For example, Bergman observes that the Koreans make three fundamental assumptions going into a negotiation:

  1. The world is out to get us. (Consider regional history from Japan, China, South Korea, as well as the U.S.)
  2. We are surrounded by giants. (China, Russia, and the U.S.)
  3. We need an asymmetric three to maintain our way of life (nuclear weapons)

In PostWorld this week, he writes that one tactic to expect from the North Koreans is a feint that could shut down negotiations:

In the 1990s, when one of us, then-congressman Richardson, was an unofficial envoy, his U.S. delegation extended an offer of food aid to North Korea during one break in arms-control discussions as a gesture meant to encourage their counterparts to return to the talks. The North Koreans publicly rejected the aid, insisting that they didn’t need it, but then quietly accepted it, nonetheless. For show, they briefly reopened negotiations, but they weren’t serious. Nothing happened, and they blamed us for the impasse. A typical North Korean dodge.

via WaPo, Kim Jong Un won’t give up his nukes. Trump should meet with him, anyway.

Discussions could take much longer than just a one meet up between two highly visible heads of state:

In 2016, negotiating on behalf of Otto Warmbier’s family in Pyongyang, the other one of us, Mr. Bergman, received a flat “no” from the North Koreans on a proposal to bring Otto home during the official portion of a meeting. Minutes later, during an unofficial conversation, one of his counterparts casually commented: “There is a saying in my country: it takes 100 hacks to take down a tree.” The North Koreans negotiate with patience and deliberation, something Trump must take into account.

How will Trump do, the self-described master negotiator? We’ll have to wait and see–and hope for the best.


Making Davos Work

If you wonder what alternatives exist to the traditional diplomatic forms of summitry and multilateralism, consider Davos.  This annual global opinion-leader event mixes business, government, non-profit with thought leaders sprinkled liberally throughout in a unique, break-even model:

For government officials, Davos has the same allure that it does for business: a series of quick-hit meetings with their counterparts. It gives executives the chance to jockey for position on the other side of the table with a government leader who could have an infrastructure project that needs financing, deals that can be worth millions if not billions of dollars. Or executives will spend weeks before arriving trying to get a 15-minute meeting with Mrs. Merkel or Ms. Lagarde in the hope of influencing the dialogue over the euro.

That may help explain why the World Economic Forum brought in $157 million in revenue last year from its members and strategic corporate partners.

In case you’re curious, it spent virtually all of it: $156 million. How was it spent? The organization employs 337 full-time employees and 369 “full-time equivalents” annually that it says cost a total of about $69 million. The conferences it convenes — besides the meeting in Davos, it organizes another big event in China and four other regional events — cost about $60 million more for space, elaborate signs and furniture, meals, event planning and security. (The security costs in Davos alone are estimated to be about $8 million, which are borne by the World Economic Forum and the Swiss government.) The organization says it spent another $26 million on office costs.

via Free Pass for Matchmaking at a Setting in the Alps –

Its a tough ticket to get, however.

The G-20: The Committee to Not Save the World – David Shorr – Business – The Atlantic

Good advice to not put too much faith in the G-20,even though it plays an important decision-making and public opinion role:

The G-20 is basically a club of key economic players–collectively they account for over 80 percent of world GDP–and a channel for their combined efforts to maintain global economic growth and financial stability. The recent history and current debates within the group will sound familiar to anyone who has been following the domestic politics of America’s own economic troubles.

At the height of the Great Recession, the leaders of G-20 nations not only injected government spending into their own economies and propped up troubled banks, they also set up global financial facilities with trillions of dollars to meet additional needs. After the sense of emergency faded, however, so did the sense of solidarity among the leaders. Just before the June 2010 Toronto summit, President Obama wrote to his counterparts that the recovery was too fragile for a hasty shift from stimulus spending to austerity. Despite this plea, the leaders of Germany, Britain, and Canada pushed through a highly ambitious set of deficit reduction commitments. Such deep splits over what ails the economy inevitably constrain G-20 leaders’ options for further action — just as in the US budget battle.

via The G-20: The Committee to Not Save the World – David Shorr – Business – The Atlantic.

James M. Lindsay » UN Summit on Noncommunicable Diseases

Get ready for a global diplomatic approach on chronic diseases–such as tobacco–this week. CFR has a useful primer.

Next Monday the United Nations will host its first ever High-Level Meeting on Noncommunicable Diseases (NCDs) The goal of the two-day summit is to discuss strategies to prevent and control NCDs such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. Member nations are already debating a draft UN declaration on NCDs and advocacy groups are assailing the draft statement’s lack of an overarching goal in reducing NCD related deaths.

via James M. Lindsay: The Water’s Edge » Blog Archive » UN Summit on Noncommunicable Diseases.

How Diplomacy Works–Cont. – Swampland –

An early take on what the DC nuke summit hath wrought:

It may be premature, but it seems to me that President Obama’s nuclear summit has yielded some very important diplomatic progress. …

Most important, though, is the apparent progress in getting the Russians and Chinese to agree to a new round of sanctions against the Iranian regime …

These slow steps toward cooperation–after eight years of American neo-cowboyism–are how diplomacy begins. If it works and an atmosphere of mutual trust is created, larger steps become possible.

via How Diplomacy Works–Cont. – Swampland –

Meetings Matter

Great visual (“Obama Goes Dancing…” as a time-lapse of 1000+ images; unembeddable, unfortunately) and Reporter’s Notebook story on “the diplomatic equivalent of speed dating”… at  Win a Meeting With the President –

The language lesson in diplospeak is very instructive, on “bilats,” “readouts,” and “matters of mutual interest.”

France helps out the US with Russia

See how it works, so far…the nuanced step back by Russia:

At a meeting in Nice hosted by the President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, Mr. Medvedev backed away from the bellicose speech he gave last week, just hours after Mr. Obama won the United States presidential election. On Friday, the Russian leader argued instead that all countries “should refrain from unilateral steps” before discussions on European security next summer.  [NYT]