In an editorial on Wednesday, the South Korean paper of record, Chosun Ilbo, had a dispirited reaction to the summit between President Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, titling the piece, “Kim Jong-un Got Everything He Wanted from Summit with Trump.”
The editorial stated:
The agreement signed by Trump and Kim … came as a shock, which only got worse as Trump rambled on during the ensuing press conference. The sole goal of this summit was the dismantlement of North Korea’s nuclear weapons, and the key gauge would have been a commitment to doing it “completely, verifiably and irreversibly” and a date to do it by — for example 2020, when Trump’s term ends.
Instead, the agreement merely reaffirmed the terms of a joint declaration by Kim and President Moon Jae-in after their summit in April, and only holds Kim to working “towards complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” which could mean anything. In short, it represents no progress and achieves nothing.
Over the last few months, Trump has made increasingly bombastic vows to scrap North Korea’s nuclear weapons as soon as possible, but now there is no deadline to be found anywhere, and instead Trump is talking about real estate development on North Korea’s coast. Worse, the denuclearization pledge was listed third on a list of four bullet points, behind promises to improve U.S.-North Korea relations and establish a peace framework on the Korean peninsula … the latest U.S.-North Korean agreement did not even match the toothless terms of 13 years ago, which North Korea at any rate reneged on at the earliest opportunity.
Trump’s comments during the press conference made things worse. He pledged to end joint military drills between the U.S. and South Korea, and said he wants to pull U.S. troops out of South Korea altogether. … Trump gave North Korea a major gift even before it has taken any steps toward complete denuclearization. And in the joint agreement, it is Trump rather than the U.S. which is the party guaranteeing North Korea’s regime safety. This is diplomacy for the kindergarten.
Trump also claimed that North Korea promised to shut down a ballistic missile testing sites soon, which is at best another gesture like blowing up its nuclear test site in Punggye-ri. It seems that the U.S. will be content if North Korea halts tests and will then stop the military drills. The North will only have to hide its nuclear weapons.
This is the worst outcome for South Korea. It has long been the strategy of the Kim dynasty to sit down for one-on-one talks with the U.S. and bypass South Korea. Whatever one may think of him, the young North Korean leader has made an incredible achievement simply by getting Trump to meet him. … At this rate, the U.S. is on the road to accepting North Korea as nuclear-armed state. That is what happened with India and Pakistan, and it can happen again. Trump said he would continue to meet Kim in Pyongyang and Washington, but those talks are highly likely to focus on arms reduction, not disarmament, which is exactly what Kim wanted.
As Andrew Egger writes, “Chosun Ilbo is no partisan rag: The editors were cautiously optimistic in the days leading up to the summit, and have previously insisted on the importance of Seoul staying ‘on Trump’s good side’ rather than attempting to conduct diplomacy with North Korea alone. But South Koreans, with the historically bloodthirsty Kims at their doorstep, have even more skin in this dangerous game than the Americans do. The White House would do well to heed their protestations. There’s a lot more work to be done.”