My imagined transcript of the exchange in Beijing between Chinese President Xi Jinping and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un:
XI: C’mon, just say you want “denuclearization.” You don’t have to mean it.
KIM: But, honored leader, won’t I look weak, and inconsistent with the unalterable and proven leadership principles of late President Kim Il-sung and late General Secretary Kim Jong Il?
XI: (Shakes head and smiles avuncularly) No, L’il Kim, you will stride largely on the world stage. This is an opportunity your mighty forebears would seized had they seen the welcoming hand of history outstretched before them. It is the right choice to make based on reality.
KIM: OK, OK, I’ll say it. (Pauses) But what if Trump tries to hold me to it?
XI: Little grasshopper, listen now and believe me later. Trump is like the hobbled donkey of the ancient proverb. He’s probably not going to be in power a year from now. But even if he is, he is so erratic, he will have moved on to other crises. This pronouncement buys you time, gives you much prestige, and pulls the United States into negotiations. Who knows what might happen at the table of negotiation? Trump is a reckless capitalist bandit, and in a difficult political position at home. Who knows what he might give you when he rolls dice? Bonus for you: You can use Trump’s quite unstable style to drop hints that will scare the dickens out of the South Korean regime in the process. And if Trump is not forthcoming? Well, then, you can play the talks out for years until he is tossed onto the ash-heap of history.
KIM: What’s the story about the donkey? Tell me!