Here’s the formula for the formulaic romance: In the first act, the protagonists often despise each other — he’s rude and entitled, she’s snobbish and arrogant — and their engagement is mired in conflict. Then comes the revelation, what those around them and the viewing audience could see from the beginning. On a moonlit night, something changes, and there it is, the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Diplomacy, of course, rarely fits into such neat plot lines. But it seems safe to say that the Donald Trump-Kim Jong-un romance is well into its second act.
Gone are the days of threats of “fire and fury” and an imminent nuclear holocaust, of Kim being “a bad dude” and Trump being the “frightened dog that barks louder”. Kim went from calling the US president a “mentally deranged dotard” to inviting him for summit talks, which took place in June. The friendship is now blossoming, and North Korea seems to be making all the right moves. First, the military parade in Pyongyang on Sunday did not feature any ballistic or long-range missiles, a clear symbolic climbdown from similar events earlier. Then, on Tuesday, Kim is reported to have written a “warm letter” to Trump asking for a second round of talks. Meanwhile, South Korean President Moon Jae-in has been playing cupid, egging on the blossoming relationship.
But before celebrations of peace in the east begin, it is important to remember that the third act remains. Will romance turn into tragedy? Kim seems cuddly now, but he may not always remain so. And the reality TV star in the White House is hardly a classicist — the last minute twist and the well-timed back-stab are staples of his genre. Then, as in any good story, there are obstacles — conservative foreign policy establishments, vested interests with a stake in keeping the conflict going, and of course, China. While it lasts, however, the warm feeling of the formulaic second act is welcome.