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:
- The world is out to get us. (Consider regional history from Japan, China, South Korea, as well as the U.S.)
- We are surrounded by giants. (China, Russia, and the U.S.)
- 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.
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.