It’s often hard for outside analysts to determine what’s driving North Korea’s tactical decisions, but it’s fun to imagine that someone in Pyongyang has been reading The Art of the Deal ahead of a planned summit with the U.S. in Singapore. (Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has been digging into Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury, if his Instagram feed is to be believed.) That would explain North Korea’s move earlier this week when it threatened to pull out of the June meeting if the U.S. insists on full denuclearization: “Know when to walk away from the table” is one of Trump’s rules from his 1987 bestseller.
Trump has also spoken recently about the importance of being able to walk away.
“I think it is going to be a good success,” he said at a rally in Indiana last week, referring to the summit. “And if it isn’t, it isn’t, but you have to have that because you don’t know. We are not going to be walking into an Iran deal where the negotiator, John Kerry, refused to leave the table.”
The president has a point here: A negotiator who is unwilling to walk away from talks is a negotiator who has given up leverage. But his emphasis on walking away also points to a difference between business and politics, and the different repercussions that come in the two worlds. Trump, like many businessmen-turned-politicians, has often found himself frustrated by the slower-moving, checked-and-balanced world of Washington. When it comes to negotiations and deals, his supposed forte, it is not always so easy to simply move on in D.C. as it is in the business world.