The Upcoming Trump/Kim Summit in Singapore, if It Happens?

2018-05-28T21:23:04+00:00 May 28th, 2018|North Korea|

Others have belabored the risks. Here we elaborate the wonderful opportunities, and how to achieve them. The first step is getting beyond the stale diplomacy of history. What is needed now is something we call inventive negotiation.

Perhaps the most famous negotiation parable involves an argument over an orange. The simplest approach was to simply cut it in half, each person getting a fair share.But, when the negotiators began talking to each other, exchanging information about their interests, a better solution to the problem became obvious. The person wanting the orange for juice for breakfast took that part and the person wanting the rind for making marmalade took that part. Both sides ended up with more. Neither agreement is particularly inventive.

The parable of the orange becomes a story about invention when both parties decide to cooperate in planting an orange tree.

The talk in Washington, DC well represents the classic American diplomacy of competitive bargaining. Consider the recent lexicon of the press on the topic: bait-and-switch, carrots on the table, deals, disasters, demands, digging in, disadvantage, explosive offers, gambit, good cop/bad cop, hostage-taking, leverage, minefields, maneuvering, preconditions, pressure, reckless talk, renege, risky, sanctions, stratagem, threats, train wreck, traps, wheedling, whining, win/win, winning vs. losing, and victory. Are we talking about war, or building peace?

In the 1990s John worked with the U.S. Institute of Peace. Its President then, Ambassador Richard Solomon, told him that the iron rule of the U.S. State Department was that “95% of the negotiation happened ahead of time, at home.” That, of course, leaves no room for invention, only compromise at best. In 2009 we interviewed Miguel Alfonso, Cuba’s premier diplomat at the time, about his views on international negotiations. Before he answered our questions, he asked us one, “Do you play chess or poker?” He was first snooping out our underlying views on the topic. Both games are competitive in nature, and in the latter deception is a key tactic. Both are antithetical to inventive negotiation, wherein the foci are long-term relationhsips, honesty, and mutual opportunities.

Inventive negotiation is the use of innovation processes to build long-term relationships for finding and exploiting extraordinary opportunities.

The negotiations set for May have already started off well. Key to inventive negotiation processes are facilitators. Indeed, without President Moon Jai-en of South Korea working smartly and diligently, the meetings would never have been offered, let alone scheduled. The most recent meetings between Moon and Kim have broken much new ground already. Kim’s return of three American prisoners suggests his sincerety. And, China is now facilitating things behind the scenes.

The initial meetings between Kim and Trump must focus on relationship building. Respect and saving face are crucial in Korean culture, not so much in the U.S. While generally Americans can ignore personal slights, Koreans cannot. Compliments will be key. Maybe they will get along? They are similar in many ways. Maybe they can laugh about their mutual name-calling, for example? Both are also famous for reneging, so trust will be the initial problem. The initial goal should be trading invitations for future visits. Maybe they can attend one another’s military parade?

Cultural differences in negotiation style are always important. Fortunately, when we look across the many variables of negotiation style, the American and Korean are similar in many ways. A few differences should be anticipated. Americans tend to move through an agenda sequentially, for Koreans, jumping around on topics is common. Trump will want to get to details fast. Kim will want to talk about the big picture first. Korean formality and American candor will clash. The Korean conversational rhythm includes more interruptions than the American. This will take some getting used to for both sides.

The biggest obstacle to implementing inventive negotiations will be an impatient focus on central issues – denuclearization and troop withdrawals. Trump has already made the same mistake Nixon and Kissinger did with China. They beseeched Mao and Zhou Enlai to lean on Vietnam for peace, and the Chinese wanted back Taiwan. Neither achieved their primary goals of 1972. But the long-term relationship has progressed regardless. Trade has created a healthy economic interdependence.

The key to inventive negotiations with North Korea is to maximize ideas put on the table to develop a long-term constructive peace. That is, “How can we work together to make life better in both countries?” Examples will include: (1) Zero tariffs for North Korean steel – they are flush with the metal’s ingredients; (2) tractors for farming and mining equipment; (3) technology for pebble nuclear reactors, that providing an option for the peaceful use of the North Korean radioactive materials. Invention will also be well served by including the South Koreans who can immediately provide management and technological resources, and employment for laid-off soldiers.

Indeed, perhaps both sides can ultimately agree that nuclear weapons no longer make sense at all given their horrific long-term effects on human life and the global environment. No one in the world is better suited to make this last argument than these two potential statesmen.