The North Korean summit and deal

Many of you have asked what I think, so here goes:

1. There is a secret (and unenforceable) deal beneath what is reported.  You may think this is good or bad, but for heaven’s sake don’t just be judging the press release.

2. If they didn’t actually agree to anything, that is fine.

3. I am reading so much yelping about how Trump “legitimized” Kim.  The status quo ex ante simply was terrible, and there is no reason to think this change is for the worse.  Trump’s great “virtue” in this regard was simply to be some mix of ignorant/disrespectful of the prior “expert consensus” and approach the problem afresh with a rather direct transactional and person-centered, personality-centered mentality.

4. As I tweeted: “Isn’t the whole point of the “deal” just to make them go visit Singapore? The real spectacle is not always where you are looking. And I hope someone brought them to the right chili crab place.”

The goal is to show the North Korean leadership there is a better way than playing the Nuclear Hermit Kingdom game.  We won’t know for some time whether this has succeeded.  Here is good FT coverage on this point.  There are in fact numerous signs that the North Koreans are considering serious reforms.  Of course those could be a feint, but the probabilities are rising in a favorable direction.  Economic cooperation with South Korea is increasing at an astonishing pace.

5. The chance that North Korea someday becomes an unruly version of an American client state has gone up.  The chance of a kind of faux, “on paper” Korean reunification has gone up too.

6. No, North Korea isn’t giving up its nuclear weapons.  The more important question is to what extent they will use those weapons in the future to check China.

7. How is it that Dennis Rodman played in only two All-Star games?

8. In expected value terms, this is the biggest triumph of the Trump presidency.  Most of all, however, you should be agnostic.  The negative commentary I am seeing is mostly sour grapes, misplaced frustration, and it is weak in the quality of its argumentation.  Here is one of Trump’s better tweets.