Leadership

Ex-FBI hostage negotiator: This is what you can expect from President Trump and Kim Jong Un summit

President Donald Trump talks to reporters as he departs the White House June 8, 2018 in Washington, DC.
Getty Images
President Donald Trump talks to reporters as he departs the White House June 8, 2018 in Washington, DC.

Tuesday, President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un are set to meet in Singapore to discuss North Korea's denuclearization. Despite their differences, the two leaders are similarly blusterous in their negotiation style, and they both have the potential to significantly increase their standing on the world stage.

That's according to the former FBI negotiator Chris Voss.

"Both of these guys are demonstrating the profile of the assertive-slash-aggressive negotiator," Voss tells CNBC Make It. "And while this looks like a lot of vitriol — there's been a lot of name calling leading up to this in the past — both these guys tend to shrug that off pretty quickly and pretty easily. They are both very thick skinned."

Generally, there are three types of negotiators, Voss tells CNBC Make It.

"The world breaks down into three types of negotiators regardless of gender or ethnicity: either openly assertive, extremely analytical or completely relationship oriented," says Voss.

"Both of these guys are demonstrating the overall characteristics of being openly assertive," explains Voss, "which means they are going to engage in a lot of aggressive negotiations that scares the other two thirds of the planet.

"But they are fine with it. It doesn't mean anything to them."

Christopher Voss, Founder and CEO of Black Swan Group speaking at Iconic L.A. on Sept. 27th, 2017.
David A. Grogan | CNBC
Christopher Voss, Founder and CEO of Black Swan Group speaking at Iconic L.A. on Sept. 27th, 2017.

If the two leaders sit down together, they will make history — there has never been a meeting between the sitting leaders of North Korea and the United States. The countries have been at odds since before the Korean War.

And the world can expect a "boxing match," says Voss.

"They are going to hit back at each other, but they both look at this as a boxing match and they are fine with that," he says.

"And that is why the rest of us, the other two thirds of the world, shouldn't get really upset when these guys go back to boxing," says Voss. "We are going to expect these guys to box. They like to box. And they are not going to be happy if they don't get to box. So to them it is just part of the process."

Voss is the founder and CEO of strategy consultancy Black Swan Group. Prior to working in the private sector, he was the lead international kidnapping negotiator for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the lead crisis negotiator for the New York City Division of the FBI and a member of the New York City Joint Terrorist Task Force for 14 years.

Traditionally, political negotiations are built around compromise, says Voss, but that should not be expected Tuesday. And a strategy of compromise has not worked in denuclearizing North Korea, points out Voss.

"North Korea's nuclear program has continued unabated through all of the Republican and Democratic administrations up to now. So regardless of what you think of the handling of everything else, every single other administration has screwed up the interaction with North Korea up to this point with the approach of compromise," says Voss.

Compromise, however, is not Trump's style, points out Voss. "Trump hates compromise to begin with at all," says Voss.

Instead, "Trump relishes the spotlight in this," says Voss. "And in this circumstance, this is working extremely well. And by and large, that is his approach to all of our foreign relations...he's not worried about sitting down with anybody. It's kind of interesting."

If Kim makes a deal with Trump Tuesday, it would be a significant opportunity for the North Korean leader, says Voss.

In negotiating, "If the other side is willing to communicate with you, then you have got leverage," explains Voss. "So clearly for Kim Jung Un to come to Singapore for this there are things that he wants.

"He knows that other than his nuclear program, he is less than a second rate power and a second rate economy and he has got no status on the world stage at all," says Voss. "So making a deal here with the United States is critical for him because then it takes him from being the former dictator's kid who took over to the opportunity to be a legitimate international figure. This is an opportunity to take his status to the next level."

Though many posit that Kim Jong Un will not give up North Korea's nuclear capabilities, Voss believes there is a chance he will agree to denuclearization if he can come out of the negotiation appearing stronger than he entered.

"This is the old saying: 'Never be so sure of what you want that you wouldn't take something better,'" says Voss.

Kim Jong Un "can have a nuclear program and be on the world stage as a mad man who inherited the country from his father and has no legitimate bonafides as a leader," says Voss, "or he can be on the world stage because he brought peace to the region and he brought prosperity to the region. And that is something no other North Korean leader has done," says Voss.

"And if he feels that that exchange elevates it, if it is trading up for him in terms of his own personal aspirations, then yeah, he gives it up. If it is not trading up, then he doesn't give it up."

Similarly, it's a chance for Trump to establish himself on the political stage, says Voss.

"Trump has an opportunity to do something no other American President has done. Other American presidents have given us a better economy. Other American presidents have re-negotiated trade deals," says Voss.

"Trump has an opportunity. Trump knows this," says Voss. "So, there's a status here and he is proceeding deliberately and cautiously."