President Trump on Friday placed himself at the center of the remarkable summit between the leaders of North and South Korea, taking credit for bold and innovative diplomacy that may open a path to peace where other leaders failed.
“It’s certainly something that I hope I can do for the world,” Trump said. “This is beyond the United States. This is a world problem, and it’s something that I hope I’m able to do for the world.”
British Prime Minister Theresa May, who had been keeping Trump at arm’s length in recent months, defied the threat of mass protests this week to finally invite him to visit what is often called America’s closest ally.
And the Senate confirmed Mike Pompeo, a Trump political ally and former tea party congressman, to be secretary of state, giving the president a foreign policy team more in line with the international policies he promoted during the campaign.
Trump’s foreign policy maneuvers, particularly on North Korea, carry great risks. Pyongyang has proven an unreliable negotiator in the past; a failure of talks now could inflame tensions back to where they were only months ago, when there were concerns that a military confrontation was becoming more likely. If he abandons the Iran deal, Trump will be under pressure to come up with a new approach to keeping Tehran’s nuclear ambitions in check.
And while Trump boasts that his tough trade talk is bringing countries to the negotiating table, congressional Republicans are openly fretting that potential trade wars will be disastrous for the economy and their party’s prospects in the midterm elections.
But for now, the president is dismissing his critics as naysayers who have failed where he plans to succeed.
Trump has turned the traditional step-by-step process of major international negotiations on its head. He stunned some aides by agreeing on the spot to an offer of direct talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The meeting casts Trump as the iconoclastic dealmaker in chief — and he appears to relish the image.
“The United States in the past was played like a fiddle,” by North Korea, because Pyongyang could take advantage of a “different kind of leader,” Trump said Friday. “That’s not happening to us.”
“Everyone’s surprised at how tight he clamped down,” on North Korea, Trump said. “Everyone said that he’d just talk about it, he wouldn’t do it. Well, he did it, and he did it out of a relationship that we have.”
“We’re not there yet, but if this happens, President Trump deserves the Nobel Peace Prize,” Graham said Friday.
Merkel’s cordial afternoon visit Friday was brief by comparison with the three days of frills accorded Macron earlier in the week.
Merkel came to make a final argument to Trump that he should not break the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, ahead of a May 12 deadline. Macron had already suggested that his own diplomacy had failed to sway Trump away from his opposition to what the president calls a “bad deal.”
That traditional allies had to come to him, asking for a change of heart on issues where the United States and Europe once walked in step, shows the ways in which Trump has rewritten the rules.
But more than a year after their awkward first White House meeting, dominated by Trump’s pet peeve about German contributions to NATO that he considers paltry, Merkel seemed to have the hang of navigating policy disagreements with an American leader she must nonetheless court.
Trump, who is broadly unpopular in Germany, shrugged off a German reporter’s question about his “aggressive tweeting” and blunt diplomatic style.
“I believe that — you know, when I look at the numbers in Germany — and some other countries, they may not like Donald Trump but you have to understand, that means I’m doing a good job because I’m representing the United States,” he said.