What did President Trump do to deserve credit for progress with North Korea?
A few things.
His “America First” approach provided credibility that the United States has no desire for regime change.
His reputation as a deal-maker offered the possibility of an off-ramp for Kim in which Kim survives and potentially thrives after reunification.
Built a good working relationship with China’s Xi
Built a good working relationship with Japan’s Abe
Built a good working relationship with South Korea’s Moon
Ordered General Mattis, the scariest general in the universe, to demonstrate overwhelming force on their border
Used Syria for missile target practice just in case Kim thought we like to save our ammo.
Got the UN to agree on sanctions
Resisted pressure to go full anti-Putin at a time when we need Russia to present no obstacles to North Korean reunification.
Kept pressure on China for sanctions. Again and again. Publicly, but with complete respect. Used the risk of shame and the hand of friendship at the same time.
Offered no concessions prior to a satisfactory agreement.
Did not believe that the best deal we could get was a nuclear freeze. Went for the whole arsenal, and gave Kim two options on how to lose it all.
Used good-cop/bad-cop persuasion, with Moon expertly playing his part.
Went to war against individual companies and people breaking the sanctions and trading with North Korea. Did not leave the job of stopping cheaters to the home governments that couldn’t or wouldn’t stop them. This was a new and effective strategy, and probably one of the biggest factors in making Kim flexible.
Used visual persuasion of captured tankers. That’s strong persuasion saying, “Don’t try it. We can see you from space.”
Added military unpredictability to the mix (intentionally)
Made the military risk for Kim feel immediate and real, as in Fire and Fury.
“Paced” Kim’s rhetoric, insult for insult, which is actually good persuasion. Trump used humor, which changed the mood from scary to “What is happening?” That is good persuasion technique.
President Trump’s taunt-tweets were personal messages to Kim, which had the effect of treating him like a peer and humanizing the situation in a way we’ve never seen.
Trump expanded the discussion (or agreed to allow it to expand) to include reunification, which makes a nuclear deal far easier to trust and verify while providing a “win” path for Kim.
Squeezed the North Korean economy in escalating steps to persuade Kim he had no hope of riding it out. The continuous squeezing is perfect persuasion because Kim could never know how much worse it could get.
“Fire and Fury” is a combination of fear persuasion and visual persuasion. It is also unusual language from a President of the United States, so you can’t get it out of your head. All of that is top-grade persuasion technique.
Those are a few of the reasons President Moon of South Korea said President Trump deserves a Nobel Prize.