Trump said he would know within seconds whether the deal was good.
He looked into Kim Jong-un’s eyes and saw a soul mate, so the world breathes a little easier. Or does it?
I think I’ve heard about 538 ‘experts’ on North Korea in recent weeks. Uri Friedman at The Atlantic voices the concerns of many:
- Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other top U.S. officials are now poised to engage in a series of talks with their North Korean counterparts to determine how serious Kim is about denuclearizing and what the United States and its allies will need to offer in return. The Trump administration did indeed succeed, both before and during the summit, in securing several goodwill gestures from North Korea: a suspension of nuclear and missile tests, the closure (if not the verifiable destruction) of a nuclear-test site, and, according to Trump, a promise by Kim in Singapore to shutter a missile-engine testing site. All of these things, plus the mere fact that U.S. and North Korean leaders are now talking to each other instead of threatening to blow each other up like they were last summer and fall, diminish the nuclear threat to the United States from North Korea for the moment.
None of them, however, changes the reality that North Korea remains very much on the cusp of being capable of striking the U.S. with long-range nuclear missiles, if it has not already reached this milestone. And it has taken no steps to reverse this basic fact.
Does Trump not know this? Or is he intent on claiming a foreign-policy victory if it benefits him politically, whether or not his negotiations with North Korea ultimately make Americans safer?
Jamil Anderlini in the Financial Times thinks Kim Jong-un outmanouvred Trump at the meeting. Certainly the Joint Statement would have been written beforehand. They have committed to work towards peace and prosperity, the DPRK committed to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and they both committed to recovering and repatriating POW/MIA remains. And committed to further talks and negotiations “led by the U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, and a relevant high-level DPRK official.”
Nothing there about the US ceasing military exercises with its allies in the region, which seems to be an extra added verbally by the Donald to the shock and amazement of many of his own as well as his allies.
Anderlini says that China thinks sanctions should be eased to reward the commitment to peace. Since China supervises the sanctions we can expect that to happen, whether agreed or not.
There is a useful backgrounder at Rear Vision at ABC RN (transcript available).
Seems Bill Clinton was intent on knocking out their plutonium complex in 1994. Jimmy Carter intervened and brokered an agreement that the US would assist them getting two nuclear reactors to be used for peaceful purposes. The North Korean economy tanked by 50% in 1994-1999. The Clinton regime thought the regime was unviable and would fail, so neglected their side of the bargain. In fact the regime itself has been one of the most stable in the world.
When the Kim Jong-il saw what happened to Saddam Hussein in 2003, they reasoned that they needed nukes to prevent attempts at regime change. Now the have they nukes and rockets it is time to talk.
All in all it is better that these two alpha male leaders are talking rather than abusing and threatening each other. And it is good that Trump has understood that commitment to the process is important rather than instant deals. The Financial Times was not impressed with Trump’s rambling press conference, but I thought it made sense.
Tom Switzer had an interesting discussion with two more DPRK experts, Leonid Petrov, visiting fellow in the College of Asia and the Pacific at the Australian National University and Danielle Pletka, vice-president for foreign and defense policy at the American Enterprise Institute. Pletka made the point that it wasn’t an option to wait out and live with a nuclear armed North Korea, which had the capacity to sell its nuclear know-how to other regimes.
As Steven Borowiec, also writing in the Financial Times, said the two men have met and taken one step forward. No-one else has got that far.
It is probably necessary for the DPRK regime to survive that there be economic development. There is a good chance that Singapore’s modernisation, which has been achieved within a lifetime, will have been observed by Kim Jong-un if he’s half as smart as trump says he is. We can but hope.