Trump meets soul mate in ‘Rocket Man’

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.

7 thoughts on “Trump meets soul mate in ‘Rocket Man’”

  1. Thanks, Brian.

    Not sure how it stands now, but about a week before the Singapore meeting, one of the 678 experts on radio said, “When Kim talks denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula, he has in the past said that would happen in the context of the complete abolition of nuclear weapons across the globe.”

    The expert’s interlocutor said, “Well, that’s not going to happen!”

    The expert agreed.

    Tom Switzerland says “nuclear deterrence has worked, ever since 1950.”

    Yes, Tom. It has worked. And it will continue to work, right up until that moment when (God forbid) it stops working, as the first city is incinerated.

    This is serious stuff. (I know it’s my childhood fear working overtime, having lived in the 1950s Cold War era, but nuclear war scares the daylights out of me. As far as I can tell, Sweden and Switzerland are among the very few nations that have serious bomb shelters. I mean public ones.)

    Let’s live in hope.

  2. This too may sound strange indeed, but standards of “strangeness” change every day…..

    Other readers doubtless saw a TV documentary screened just after President Trump’s election victory.

    It followed, in brief, the careers of Hillary and The Donald before and during the election campaign. A useful summary. When The Donald was a public figure, and President Obama presided, Mr Donald Trump attended a big charity dinner. (I can’t remember if it was the Washington Press annual dinner.) At that stage, Mr Trump had been an outspoken supporter of the hypothesis that President Obama had not been eligible for election. “Birthers”, y’all recall?

    The President was expected to give a funny speech.
    He did. But it included a sequence of savage jokes directed at The Donald, who had to sit there squirming, with TV cameras on him. The voiceover suggested the President may have overdone his attack, having more or less maintained a dignified silence over the Birtherism. He performed quite a long string of gags.

    I wonder
    1) was it at that dinner, that The Donald resolved to run for Prez?
    2) was it when President Obama rather unexpectedly won the Nobel Peace Prize, that The Donald thought, “I’ll outdo that sonofabitch!”

    Sheer speculation,….. but I think we can never be sure that human’s aren’t acting from the most childish, petulant emotions.

    So I pin my hopes on the “checks and balances” in the US political and justice system. (While hoping that the US military establishment, and the State Dept, can both act as brakes on reckless actions.)

    Yes, Mr J, part of my hopes for avoiding nuclear war are pinned on what some folk call The Deep State.

  3. Yes, Ambi, Switzer reckons that the threat of MAD (mutually assured destruction) has kept us safe.

    I recall growing up as a young man thinking (and feeling) that my exit from the planet would be via a nuclear holocaust.

    We didn’t talk about it mat the time, but I’ve heard later that my younger brother’s experience was the same.

  4. In view of past comments by Mr J, this (from the Rear Vision link) is interesting:

    In the late 1940s, the North Korean regime was a real coalition of the left, that included Communists of different stripes, and also nationalists and literary figures. South Koreans long denied this, but now understand it, that many of the leading cultural figures in the south went to the north during the 1940s. I think the war had a kind of cauterising effect on the North Korean leadership that caused Kim Il-sung to get rid of a lot of these people. There was an attempted coup against him in 1956 and he responded with draconian measures and within a decade or so into the ’60s, he had established this so-called Juche philosophy that is much more a matter of Korean nationalism than it is Marxism and Leninism, and then that has been drummed into the people’s heads ever since. They call it self-reliance and all of that, but it’s fundamentally a virulent kind of Korean nationalism, and I would say that up until around 1965 or 1966 there still was room for dissidence on the left, or for presenting alternative histories to the one that Kim Il-sung and his scribes always write. But that since the mid-’60s there has been a totalitarian state that actually would probably go beyond what Stalin created.

    (Emphasis added)

    A separate point of interest is that the invasion from the north swept south to a few kilometres from the southern coast. Then the Americans and allies pushed north to near the Chinese border, who then entered the fray and pushed south to where the line is now.

    So most of the peninsula has a double dose of war passing through, with terrible destruction, worse, they say, than what happened to Germany in WW2.

  5. My first thought on that meeting was of Neville Chamberlain and of “Peace In Out Time”, which, by the way, I don’t think he believed himself but he and his fellow political ornaments lacked the boldness, the swiftness and the skill to dampen the Nazi’s ability to wage war at a time when the Nazi’s were economically and militarily becoming weaker. History mightn’t repeat itself, but with the folly Trump and his cronies, this is as close as you’ll get to a repeat. As with the Munich Agreement, this agreement in Singapore will revitalize a brutal regime that is already in serious trouble and is probably being kept afloat only by China’s long-term ambitions for its long-ago territorial possession.

    Trump seemed so obsessed with Making The Deal that he had lost his street smarts – and allowed the sucker to make a sucker out of him.

    My second thought was that this meeting was the Funeral of The Great Republic. All pretence that the United States is a republic and not an empire or a kingdom is now nothing but a joke. It is a country ruled by an autocrat who exercises his will and his follies almost without restraint. At present, each monarch rules for only eight years but, with the excellent example given by Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump will find a way of extending this bothersome limit to his rule – unless the U.S. is wiped out in a nuclear war beforehand.

    Buying shovels, cement, sand, gravel and reo mesh then hiring a backhoe and a concrete mixer would be a wise investments for prudent Australians these days.

    As the song goes, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”. 🙂

  6. Brian 16th June

    That long quote from “Rear Vision” is interesting.
    The Juche Philosophy, much spouted, was prominent from 1970s. At that time, Burma was already closed off too. North Korea wasn’t alone in being a hermit kingdom. Then Kampuchea closed itself in 1975.

    Whatever anyone thinks of foreign investment and global capital flows, “self-sufficiency” just doesn’t seem to work. Can one nation have all the natural resources and food production it needs? I can’t think of a successful industrialised case.

    As to the practice of killing off left wing political rivals, take a bow Mr Lenin. [Yes, it’s been a long debate: was Stalin a true heir of Lenin, or a noxious deviation? My reading is that Lenin was as ruthless asTrotsky or Stalin, and in the very earliest years murdered Social Revolutionaries – who mourns the murdered thousands? – and went on to persecute the ‘kulaks’ – on a class basis (that’s Bolshevik justice at work) – who mourns the murdered millions?]

    After that, you’d have to be a very fearless Soviet person, to resist.

    Copies with local variations practised by Mao, Spanish Communists with Soviet assistance, Dimitrov in Bulgaria, Czech Communists, East German regime, Castro, Pol Pot, and a legion of others. The bitter, bloody history is a shame on humans and a shame on any ideals of

    classless, humane, cooperative, egalitarian abundance and prosperity

    Given that interpretation of 20th century history in the bloodlands, which I’m well aware is “contested”, I would suggest that Stalinism is not an adequate term, if it suggests the nastiness was restricted to the USSR from, say 1924 to 1957 [Krushchev secret speech on Stalin’s crimes].

    Mao, Stalin, Pol Pot, ……. outdid Hitler, if anyone wants to see this as a contest of infamy. The Kim Dynasty are relative newcomers to the field, but showing some early promise, and scoring significant goals.


  7. Ambi, I understand North Korea is the most militarised country in the world. Here are some scary facts.

    Every male has to undergo military training, and now some women too.

    On mass atrocities, I understand in Ancient China where power was a family business the practice was for the victorious to exterminate the rival family down to the last child.

    I recall George Monbiot going to visit a tribe of about 100 I think in Tanzania. When he got there they were all newly dead, except two. The previous night the mob next door had slipped over and cut their throats.

    I think we have too much chimp and not enough bonobos in our DNA.

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