Trump-Kim talks as played in game theory and chess

US President Donald Trump's possible meeting with Mr Kim Jong Un to discuss North Korean nuclear weapons is considered a fairly unpredictable event. It's worth a look at how an economist might use game theory to think about such a summit, if only to explain why there is more room for things to go wrong than to get better.

Game theorists often approach a problem by first considering where a series of strategies might end up, and then working backwards to understand current choices. When it comes to North Korea, the theorist would start with a scenario in which it is just a few years from having intercontinental missiles able to target major US cities. That is good for their leadership and very bad for others, including a South Korea that would end up more vulnerable to a North Korean invasion.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 15, 2018, with the headline 'Trump-Kim talks as played in game theory and chess'. Subscribe