After Emmanuel Macron, why not a Donald Trump-Kim Jong-un bromance for world peace?
Yonden Lhatoo brushes cynicism aside to welcome US President Donald Trump’s public display of affection with his French counterpart and hopes he will extend it to North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un when they meet next
What an extraordinary week it’s been for global diplomacy, even if substance may have been sidelined by spectacle.
First there was “Le Bromance” between US President Donald Trump and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron – fresh from jointly bombing Syria – with their astonishing public displays of affection in front of the world’s media.
If you haven’t seen the video clips already, they’re mandatory viewing, because words are not enough to convey the sheer touchy-feeliness of all that handshaking, hand-holding, hugging and faux cheek-kissing at the White House.
The two of them – especially Trump – seemed unable to stop touching each other, and there were some truly cringeworthy moments, such as when the US president affectionately flicked what he identified as “dandruff” off Macron’s shoulder, telling everyone: “We have to make him perfect.”
It was a far cry from last year’s rutting ritual in Paris, when Macron seemed determined to beat a visiting Trump at his own game of “grab-and-yank-his-hand” one-upmanship. “You have to show you won’t make small concessions – not even symbolic ones,” the French leader explained back then.
This time, Macron seemed content playing the blushing bride to Trump’s awkward amorousness, but there was no mistaking the distance between them when he addressed a joint session of Congress to bad-mouth nationalism and isolationism, predict the United States’ return to the Paris climate accord, denounce trade wars and reiterate France’s resolve to adhere to the Iran nuclear deal.
Another striking global spectacle this week was the historic meeting between the leaders of the two Koreas at one of the world’s most militarised and dangerous borders.
After the frightening rhetoric of the past year, North Korea’s Kim Jong-un was a surreal sight to behold, striding confidently across the cracked concrete of the demarcation line at the truce village of Panmunjom to shake hands with South Korean President Moon Jae-in. In an unscripted deviation from highly choreographed protocol, Kim even persuaded Moon to briefly step over into the North before walking back to the South, both men smiling and holding hands like a reconciled couple.
Surfeit of symbolism aside, what remains to be seen is how jolly and accommodating Kim will remain when it comes to actual denuclearisation.
The North Koreans are old hands at nuclear brinkmanship to secure concessions from the rest of the world, and Kim is now joining the negotiating table as the head of a certified nuclear power.
On the other hand, Trump is already taking full credit for the quantum diplomatic shift, and it’s arguably justified, given that his belligerent approach – including an open threat last year to unleash “fire and fury like the world has never seen” upon the most isolated country on the planet – may well have persuaded Kim to be more pragmatic.
Whatever the real reasons may be, it’s time to look forward to the previously inconceivable prospect of a Trump-Kim summit this summer. Maybe we can even hope for a bromance between them, Franco-American style.
And why not? After ridiculing Kim as “Little Rocket Man” and “a sick puppy” last year, Trump has graduated to describing him as “very open” and “very honourable”, paving the way for bonhomie with new bromance potential when they meet.
I can picture them already, hugging, holding hands and talking peace over burgers and kimchi. The naysayers may complain that Kim remains a brutal dictator, but I’ll take romancing the regime any day over pushing it to the brink of Armageddon.
Just last year, Trump was boasting that his finger was on a bigger nuclear button. What a relief that he seems to be pushing the right ones for now. Yonden Lhatoo is the chief news editor at the Post