When Donald Trump addressed South Korea’s parliament earlier this week, The Associated Press noted his “striking shift in tone.” After Trump journeyed from Seoul to Beijing, The New York Times made a video entitled “Trump’s striking change in tone on China.”
But the change isn’t all that striking. It’s predictable. Trump insults people from afar and then praises them in person. He demands they change their behavior, and then forgets those demands when they’re in the room. He’s been doing it consistently for at least a year.
As The Associated Press noted, Trump in September tweeted, “South Korea is finding, as I have told them, that their talk of appeasement with North Korea will not work.” But this week, standing alongside South Korea’s dovish president Moon Jae In at a press conference, Trump’s belittling, hardline tone disappeared. Instead, he said, “It makes sense for North Korea to come to the table and make a deal that is good for the people of North Korea and for the world.” As my colleague David Graham has noted, Trump—who during the campaign suggested U.S. troops should leave the peninsula because the South Koreans “do not pay us what they should be paying us,” also lavishly reaffirmed his commitment to South Korea’s defense.