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Trump’s dovish North Korea posture unlikely to affect his ratings

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Rebecca Valli

North Korea dominated the foreign policy section of Trump’s address to the nation, on Tuesday, with the announcement of a new summit with Kim Jong Un in Vietnam at the end of the month.


Associate Professor in Cornell University’s Department of Government

Sarah Kreps

Associate Professor in Cornell University’s Department of Government

Few people think that North Korea will actually denuclearize because its nuclear weapons are the only international leverage it has, but Trump is less vulnerable — compared to a Democrat — to the political risks of negotiating with Kim.

 

Kreps says:

“Trump’s State of the Union assertion that we would be in a war with North Korea had he not been elected is sheer speculation unmoored from reality. Trump campaigned and started his presidency on what Hillary Clinton rightfully referred to as ‘cavalier’ threats toward North Korea. 

“Nonetheless, anyone who claims an interest in avoiding nuclear war should commend his overtures to North Korea. We are better off than a year ago when we seemed to be playing a game of brinksmanship with them. My research — with Elizabeth Saunders and Kenneth Schultz — does show that Trump may have some partisan advantages when it comes to these types of negotiations and agreements.

“When Democrats try to make a deal, Republicans have incentives to attack it as a sign of weakness. The attack may work because it’s consistent with the party brand as being more dovish. When a Republican makes a deal, most fellow Republicans will back him for partisan reasons, and Democrats can criticize but the charge of being too soft is unlikely to stick. 

“This does not guarantee success, and few people think that North Korea will actually denuclearize because its nuclear weapons are the only international leverage it has, but Trump is less vulnerable — compared to a Democrat — to the political risks of negotiating with Kim.”

 


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