NATIONAL

Trump-Kim mixture could spell disaster in talks

By Choi He-suk

[Herald Interview] Author of ‘Dangerous Case of Donald Trump’ warns Trump presents unprecedented dangers

  • Published : Apr 15, 2018 - 15:46
  • Updated : Apr 20, 2018 - 15:37
US President Donald Trump’s personality traits show signs of instability that pose a grave danger to the world and should be kept apart from negotiations with North Korea, warns Bandy Lee.

Lee, the editor of the best-selling book “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump,” a collection of writings by mental health professionals, warns that Trump displays numerous signs of complex psychological issues.

Lee says that the tendencies Trump displays raise risks for the upcoming US-North Korea summit, which is to take place in May or early June, after the inter-Korean summit on April 27. 

Bandy Lee. Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald

“(Trump’s) tendencies alone would make the meeting very precarious, and of course both parties have been belligerent, warmongering, sparring, saber rattling in ways that have put the world on edge,” Lee said. She said that although little information is available, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has committed acts of violence that cast doubt on his mental stability. In addition to tightening the North Korean government’s control of its people, Kim is suspected of ordering the assassination of his elder half brother Kim Jong-nam and the execution of his uncle Jang Song-thaek.

“Given Trump’s volatility and erratic decision making, while discussion of talks is far more positive than discussion of war, I think there is tremendous reason for caution.”

She warns that given the signs of mental instability Trump has displayed, parties dealing with him must practice caution.

Saying that Trump and individuals impaired in a similar way follow “a whole different logic,” she says that assuming the US leader to be “a normal rational human being” would lead to disaster.

“No matter how you try to stretch your imagination, the ordinary person is likely to underestimate and minimize the dangers, the level to which someone like (Trump) could turn volatile, dangerously vindictive,” she said.

“So, my recommendation has been to remove the negotiations as much as possible from the figureheads (Kim and Trump), and to try to negotiate with the structures that are in place in the US rather than the president himself.”

At the time of the interview, Rex Tillerson and H.R. McMaster were still in office. Lee warns that with the appointments of John Bolton and Mike Pompeo, the structures themselves are beginning to resemble Trump’s psyche.

Lee’s book argues that Trump’s presidency is a result of the “poor state of collective mental health” amplified by growing inequality in the US, which is being aggravated by Trump.

“The book actually does not make any diagnosis. We don’t consider Mr. Trump’s personal diagnosis to be as important as the danger he poses to public health and safety,” she said.

Highlighting that Trump is both a cause and symptom of the “poor state of collective mental health,” Lee went on to say that his having access to the powers of a US leader poses a serious danger.

“The dangerousness is really about the situation. The situation is the worst because (of) the weapons he has access to, and the power he wields in his position, so in terms of dangerousness there has never been anyone so dangerous, I don’t think, in American history, as well as the world’s history.”

Lee also points to Trump’s Twitter messages, which have earned him criticism as a sign of psychological issues.

Trump has announced major decisions and developments including the removal of former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson through his Twitter account. The US leader also hinted at renegotiation of the Korea-US Free Trade Agreement following his first summit with President Moon Jae-in in Washington last year.

While assessing the proposed talks as a positive development, Lee said that the circumstances in which Trump agreed to meet Kim pose questions.

Trump agreed to meet Kim on March 9 while South Korean National Security Office chief Chung Eui-yong was meeting with White House officials to discuss his earlier meeting with Kim in Pyongyang. The decision was revealed in a surprise announcement by Chung, who was scheduled to meet the US leader on the following day, on the request of Trump at the White House.

“He had the officials announce the news straight away, and agreement to talks in that context makes the decisions seriously doubtable. His entire pattern has been gearing up for war, he would not hear of talks,” Lee said.

“He is someone who was not even willing to consider peace talks, and (was) full force heading toward war, that is more his mode of operation. He even fired his secretary of state shortly after he agreed to the talks, that is not a rational decision, and not a decision that we can depend upon.”

By Choi He-suk (cheesuk@heraldcorp.com)