When U.S. President Donald Trump agreed to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore in June, he flipped the script on the normal diplomatic approach with an adversary like Pyongyang. The strategy was basically to celebrate the optics of the unprecedented high-level summit, get some sort of agreement, and figure out the details later.
The impulse to do this was understandable; previous strategies hadn’t worked. In the face of long stretches of withering sanctions pressure and threats of fire and fury, punctuated by fruitless periods of engagement and economic inducement, North Korea built nuclear weapons anyway, plus a healthy ballistic missile arsenal. And by helping to reduce tension and start a dialogue, the summit could make it easier for both sides to agree on a viable roadmap forward.
But diplomatic ingenuity and imagination will lead to little more than symbolism and stagecraft if out of step with underlying realities. Nimble diplomacy can pry open a window