President Trump arrived in Singapore Sunday for a historic summit with his former nemesis Kim Jong Un, one day after torpedoing trade talks with some of America’s staunchest allies at the G7 summit in Canada.
Trump’s recent remarks about Kim have been far more conciliatory — even flattering the man he once derided as “Rocket Man” as a “very honorable leader.” The U.S. president is eyeing a chance to make history, if he succeeds against all odds, to convince North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons.
His administration in recent weeks has toned down expectations for these talks and is couching the meeting as a more of an opportunity to get acquainted. Still, Trump appears to relish the chance to be at the center of the world stage and to burnish his credentials as a statesman and self-styled “dealmaker.”
As a press conference at the G7 summit wound down on Saturday, Trump made his usual blustery statements about his skill as a negotiator, bragging that he would be able to discern “in the first five seconds” whether Kim was serious about these talks.
“It’s just my touch, my feel — thats what I do,” Trump told reporters shortly before leaving the summit in Quebec.
“They say you know you’re going to like somebody in the first five seconds – you ever hear of that one? Well, I think I’ll know very quickly whether or not something good is going to happen. I also think I’ll know whether it will happen fast.”
“And if I think it won’t happen,” Trump continued, “I don’t want to waste my time. I don’t want to waste his time.”
Axios reported that Trump is so upbeat about the prospects for a successful summit with the North Korean leader that he is looking ahead to the possible opening of an embassy in Pyongyang.
One could only hope the summit in Asia goes better than the one in Canada where he left America’s vaunted relationship with longstanding allies in tatters. A viral photo circulated by an aide of German Chancellor Angela Merkel perfectly captured the fraught tone.
Angela Merkel's office has released this photo taken today at the G7, which tells you a lot about how things went. pic.twitter.com/IXX6K3ayys
— David Mack (@davidmackau) June 9, 2018
Relations with U.S. allies were fractured ahead of the summit by Trump’s decision to slap a 25 percent tariff on steel and a 10 percent tariff on aluminum from Canada, Mexico and the European Union.
Trump set a fractious tone for the talks even before departing Washington for the meeting, when he told reporters it was time for the G7 to readmit Russia. Moscow had been ejected from the group four years ago over its aggression against Ukraine and its annexation of Crimea.
Your wrong-headed protectionist policies & antics are damaging our global standing as well as our national interests. Your worldview does not represent American ideals. To allies & friends: Be patient, Mr. Trump is a temporary aberration. The America you once knew will return. https://t.co/7qHthq2GuT
— John O. Brennan (@JohnBrennan) June 10, 2018
Instead of improving the contentious tone, the meetings in Canada appeared to only worsen relations in part because of Trump’s demand that the other G7 members abandon tariffs on U.S. goods.
And in the ultimate insult, after initially agreeing to sign a joint communique with the other six nations, Trump reneged en route to Singapore, refusing to endorse the statement. He then unleashed a flurry of combative tweets aimed at his G7 host, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Democrats expressed dismay and outrage that Trump appears to have brought relations with America’s allies appear to their lowest point in decades.
To our allies: bipartisan majorities of Americans remain pro-free trade, pro-globalization & supportive of alliances based on 70 years of shared values. Americans stand with you, even if our president doesn’t.
— John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain) June 10, 2018
Meanwhile, there was radio silence from most Republicans after the summit unraveled, although Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) sent a reassuring message to America’s diplomatic partners via Twitter.