STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

Trump's high-stakes nuclear poker tactics on full display

President Donald Trump is turning two crucial foreign policy dramas -- over the Iran deal and a ...

Posted: May 1, 2018 12:33 PM
Updated: May 1, 2018 12:33 PM

President Donald Trump is turning two crucial foreign policy dramas -- over the Iran deal and a startling opening on the Korean peninsula -- into one big game of televised nuclear poker.

He's concealing his hand, but constantly raising the stakes. He's dripping tantalizing details out bit by bit, stoking expectations and speculation about his next moves.

"We'll see what happens," Trump said Monday regarding his decision expected in two weeks about whether to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal. "I'm not telling you what I'm doing, but a lot of people think they know. And on or before the 12th, we'll make a decision."

But as a statesman, he is raising questions about whether his overtly personal approach is useful in jolting diplomatic progress or whether he is wagering too much personal capital on risky plays. It's certainly possible that Trump's unrestrained "fire and fury" rhetoric complimented a tough sanctions regime against Pyongyang and might have changed the North Korean calculation.

At times, his demands for credit about what is happening contrast with the public comments of his senior aides, who seem much less convinced that North Korea has really changed.

Trump is also relishing his looming summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, that promises to be the most compelling presidential theater in decades.

"It has the chance to be a big event," he told reporters Monday.

"The United States has never been closer to potentially having something happen with respect to the Korean Peninsula that can get rid of the nuclear weapons, can create so many good things, so many positive things, and peace and safety for the world," Trump said.

"So we'll see what happens. You know, I often say, 'Who knows?' Who knows? Maybe a lot of things change."

Trump's approach to both challenges is consistent with the pattern of his own life. As a real estate developer, a reality show personality and politician, he's made himself the star of every show.

Personal prism for deals

Trump also seems to be seeing the Iran deal through a personal prism.

It often seems that his animosity for President Barack Obama may have prevented him taking a rounded look at the central foreign policy legacy achievement of his predecessor.

Trump's ultra-personal approach to the intricate cases of North Korea and Iran have prompted fellow leaders on opposite sides of an argument to adopt their own unorthodox theatrics to reach him.

French President Emmanuel Macron last week laid on an ostentatious show of hugs, kisses and hand holding in a bid to convince Trump to stay in the Iran deal.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded on Monday with an elaborate, prop-laden PowerPoint broadcast accusing Iran of lying about its past nuclear activity. The appearance was timed minutes before Trump's news conference Monday with the Nigerian President.

And perhaps seeking to keep Trump engaged in the political possibilities of meeting Kim, South Korea's President Moon Jae-in said Monday the US President already deserved the Nobel peace prize.

The constant drip of details about the venue of the North Korea summit -- and Trump's warning that he could "respectfully" walk out, are diverting attention from the key question of whether the North really is ready to give up its nuclear program and has changed its behavior.

The President suggested on Twitter on Monday that the meeting could be held at the Peace Village in the demilitarized zone between the Koreas. There is a worry in Washington that such a venue could be seen as a concession to Kim given that the President would have to fly halfway across the world to make the meeting.

But Trump tweeted Monday that the border would be a "more Representative, Important and Lasting site than a third-party country? Just asking!"

It could be that that Trump, with his penchant for showmanship, saw the stunning pictures of Kim and Moon at the world's last Cold War-era frontier last week and wanted a piece of it himself.

Certainly such a venue would be more in tune with Trump's theatrical reflex than a hotel ballroom or a government facility in Singapore, another possible location mentioned by the President Monday.

Attention being paid to the logistics of the summit is for now at least overshadowing the historic potential of the meeting itself.

Staggering pace

Events seem to be moving at a staggering pace on the peninsula following the Kim-Moon summit last week. The South said at the weekend that the North would invite US and South Korean journalists to watch the dismantling of a nuclear test site in May.

Trump sees such developments as a sign he's on the right track and proof of Kim's sincerity.

"He's talking about getting rid of the site, which was their big site. He's talking about no research, no launching of ballistic missiles, no nuclear testing. And he has lived up to that for a long period of time, a longer period of time than anybody has seen."

But there is another way to see the North Korean approach. Kim could be playing a familiar game of offering symbolic concessions to draw the US and its allies into a prolonged and ultimately inconclusive dialogue.

Pyongyang's announcement on its nuclear test site is seen by many analysts as a way of declaring itself a genuine nuclear power.

Washington also has no way to know about other test sites or secret storage facilities throughout North Korea. And Pyongyang is unlikely to agree to open up without the substantial economic concessions that the President's team says are not on the table.

Doubts about North Korea's intentions are apparently shared high up in Trump's own team and are being expressed in a way that contrasts with the President's bullish pre-game banter.

"The North Korean propaganda playbook is an infinitely rich resource," national security adviser John Bolton said on CBS "Face the Nation."

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was also tempered.

"We'll see how the negotiations proceed, but we're going to do it in a fundamentally different way than the previous efforts to persuade the North Koreans to get rid of their nuclear weapons program," Pompeo said on ABC News "This Week" on Sunday.

"We have our eyes wide open," he said.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 30900

Reported Deaths: 1111
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds249840
DeSoto159416
Madison130034
Jones112449
Neshoba98871
Rankin93412
Harrison91211
Lauderdale90979
Forrest86942
Scott77115
Jackson62216
Copiah60215
Washington5849
Leake57819
Holmes55341
Lee54718
Wayne54513
Oktibbeha54126
Warren51518
Yazoo5096
Leflore48751
Grenada4835
Lowndes48313
Lincoln46034
Lamar4587
Pike43112
Monroe40130
Lafayette3914
Sunflower3727
Attala36023
Covington3565
Panola3506
Newton3399
Bolivar33414
Simpson3173
Adams31118
Pontotoc2866
Tate28310
Marion28111
Chickasaw27718
Claiborne27410
Noxubee2638
Jasper2626
Winston2616
Pearl River25432
Clay25010
Marshall2323
Smith21811
Clarke20724
Union2079
Coahoma2016
Walthall1995
Kemper17914
Lawrence1772
Yalobusha1707
Carroll16511
Humphreys1479
Tallahatchie1364
Itawamba1358
Montgomery1322
Calhoun1304
Tippah13011
Hancock12813
Webster12710
Jefferson Davis1114
Prentiss1083
Jefferson1073
Greene1058
Tunica1003
Wilkinson949
Amite912
George883
Tishomingo801
Quitman760
Choctaw744
Alcorn692
Perry664
Stone651
Franklin452
Sharkey370
Benton360
Issaquena91
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 44375

Reported Deaths: 984
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson5221152
Montgomery4127103
Mobile4080134
Tuscaloosa228842
Marshall171110
Madison14307
Lee138437
Shelby128423
Morgan11025
Walker93924
Elmore92514
Franklin89514
Dallas8809
Baldwin8649
Etowah73913
DeKalb7195
Butler63328
Chambers62927
Autauga60712
Tallapoosa59169
Russell5520
Unassigned50323
Houston4964
Limestone4950
Lauderdale4906
Lowndes47221
Cullman4524
Pike4295
Colbert3956
St. Clair3822
Coffee3772
Bullock36910
Covington3587
Calhoun3545
Escambia3506
Barbour3492
Hale31121
Talladega3097
Marengo30211
Wilcox2918
Dale2880
Sumter28512
Clarke2746
Jackson2732
Winston2583
Chilton2462
Blount2351
Monroe2352
Pickens2356
Marion22413
Conecuh2097
Randolph2069
Choctaw19512
Macon1949
Bibb1901
Greene1868
Perry1771
Henry1343
Crenshaw1253
Washington1097
Lawrence1080
Cherokee977
Geneva800
Lamar771
Fayette701
Clay652
Coosa581
Cleburne361
Out of AL00
Tupelo
Clear
79° wxIcon
Hi: 90° Lo: 72°
Feels Like: 82°
Columbus
Clear
78° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 72°
Feels Like: 81°
Oxford
Scattered Clouds
79° wxIcon
Hi: 90° Lo: 69°
Feels Like: 82°
Starkville
Clear
77° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 69°
Feels Like: 78°
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather