Trump’s approach is almost exactly the opposite of Obama’s. Trump began by explicitly threatening Pyongyang with “fire and fury.” For a time Kim acted defiant, but the fact that both South Korea and China feared Trump was in earnest had its effect. The South Koreans offered olive branches. The Chinese squeezed North Korea’s economic windpipe. Trump then made a key concession: He agreed to a summit meeting with Kim. Next month in Singapore we shall see what comes of it. My guess is that the deal will make Trump’s knee-jerk critics themselves look foolish. He won’t get complete denuclearization, but he will get some. Meanwhile, large-scale South Korean and Chinese investment in North Korea will start the process of prising open the hermit kingdom.
Now for Iran. Trump’s strategy in year one was to reassure his country’s traditional allies in the region — not only the Saudis and Israelis, but also the other Arab states — that he was on their side against Iranian expansionism. In year two he is not only reapplying the US sanctions on Iran — and remember that they affect not only US companies but European ones too — but also applying pressure on the ground in all those different countries where the Iranians have intervened. Step forward the new national security team, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton — names calculated to make the mullahs quake.