The best way of thinking about Donald Trump’s astounding – but none the less characteristic – North Korean gambit is to imagine the optimal outcome. The country denuclearises; the regime liberalises. The initiative is remembered as the President’s Nixon-to-China moment, only more so. And “the old lunatic” (as Kim Jong Un has called Trump) and “the wack job” (as Trump has called Kim Jong Un) line up together to accept the Nobel Peace Prize.
This is extraordinarily unlikely, but not beyond imagination. If Trump loses office, he waddles offstage towards oodles of money, his memoirs, and a blitz of TV shows, bellowing all the while that the election was fixed. If Jong Un loses power, he is burnt alive by flamethrowers or hurled, Game-Of-Thrones-style, to famished dogs – at least, if he is treated the same way that he has treated others. Maybe the North Korean President thinks he can persuade the fellow members of his claque, who will have no more regard for human life than he has, that they can keep their tyrannical grip on the country amidst such a transformation.