Trump’s Big North Korean Moment Is Either A Masterstroke Or A Horrible Debacle. There’s No In-Between.


On Monday evening, President Trump met with North Korean dictator Kim Jung Un, the tyrannical overlord of a slave state with 25 million prisoners and a gulag system containing hundreds of thousands of human beings, a radical threat to world peace who has tested nuclear weapons and long-range missiles. Trump gave Kim the thumbs up; the American flag, the symbol of freedom in the world, was placed alongside the flag of North Korea, the closest thing to the Nazi swastika in the world today. Then President Trump praised Kim fulsomely, using verbiage to describe him that he would never use about our G-7 allies.

And the right celebrated.

There’s nothing to celebrate yet. Nothing. Here’s why.

1. Trump Got No Serious Concessions From Kim. According to Trump, Kim said he’ll denuclearize. Sure he will. Just as the Kim family has promised verbally to denuclearize for decades. The actual signed agreement between the United States and North Korea is pathetically weak. As Heritage Foundation research fellow for Northeast Asia Bruce Klingner states:

Here’s what the document itself says:

President Donald J Trump of the United States of America and Chairman Kim Jong Un of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) held first historic summit in Singapore on June 12, 2018.

President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un conducted a comprehensive in-depth and sincere exchange of opinions on the issues related to the establishment of new US-DPRK relations and the building of a lasting and robust peace regime on the Korean Peninsula. President Trump committed to provide security guarantees to the DPRK, and Chairman Kim Jong Un reaffirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

Convinced that the establishment of new US-DPRK relations will contribute to the peace and prosperity of the Korean peninsula and of the world, and recognizing that mutual confidence building can promote the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un state the following:

  1. The United States and the DPRK commit to establish new US-DPRK relations in accordance with the desire of the peoples of the two countries for peace and prosperity
  2. The United States and the DPRK will join their efforts to build a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula
  3. Reaffirming the April 27, 2018 Panmunjom Declaration, the DPRK commits to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula
  4. The United States and the DPRK commit to recovering POW/MIA remains, including the immediate repatriation of those already identified.

Having acknowledged that the US-DPRK summit — the first in history — was an epochal event of great significance in overcoming decades of tensions and hostilities between the two countries and for the opening up of a new future, President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un commit to implement the stipulation in this joint statement fully and expeditiously. The United States and the DPRK commit to hold follow-on negotiations, led by the US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, and a relevant high-level DPRK official, at the earliest possible date, to implement the outcomes of the US-DPRK summit.

President Donald J Trump of the United States of America and Chairman Kim Jong Un of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea have committed to cooperate for the development of new US-DPRK relations and for the promotion of peace, prosperity, and security of the Korean Peninsula and of the world.

There’s nothing new here.

The only thing that seemingly changes here is the explicit commitment by the North Korean government to recovering remains from the POW/MIAs of the Korean War. But Korean officials have been promising that same thing for years, and indeed, between 1996 and 2005, US-NK search teams “conducted 33 joint recovery operations and recovered 229 sets of American remains.” That program was discontinued because North Korea insisted we pay them for the privilege, a program some Americans referred to as “bones for bucks.” But we recontinued it in 2011, then stopped again in 2016.

So, what justifies all of this? Here’s Trump’s description of what he got in negotiations:

What did they do to justify this meeting? Secured commitment for complete denuclearization. That’s the big thing.

But that’s precisely what the North Koreans have been promising for the entirety of negotiations stretching back decades. They’ve always been lying.

2. Trump Legitimized Kim. Trump legitimized Kim. There are no two ways about it. Here’s the triumphal video Trump released this morning:

That video is inappropriate for any meeting with a dictator, let alone a dictator who uses WMD to kill a family member in an airport. If this video had been produced by Kim for propaganda use by his own people, that would have been just as believable.

But that was just the beginning. Trump said it was his “great honor” to meet Kim. He called Kim “very talented” and added that “you can take 1 out of 10,000” and they wouldn’t be able to do what Kim has done. He said Kim was “very smart” and a “very good negotiator.” He said that it’s a “rough situation” in North Korea but it’s also “rough in a lot of places.” He credited Kim with making the Olympics a “tremendous success by agreeing to participate.” Finally, he said, “His country does love him. His people, you see the fervor.” That’s pathetic. If Obama had said it, conservatives would rightly have gone ballistic. (And by the way, if Obama had said it, the media currently crushing Trump would have praised him to the skies.)

3. Trump Delegitimized America’s Actions In The Korean Region. Trump said that he would stop a planned military exercise with the South Koreans, and that he wanted to pull American troops off the Korean peninsula:

At some point I have to be honest. I used to say this during my campaign as you know better than most. I want to get our soldiers out. I want to bring our soldiers back home. We have 32,000 soldiers in South Korea. I would like to be able to bring them back home. That’s not part of the equation. At some point, I hope it would be. We will stop the war games which will save us a tremendous amount of money. Unless and until we see the future negotiations is not going along like it should. We will be saving a tremendous amount of money. Plus. It is very provocative.

The exercises have reportedly been postponed; there’s no reality to the movement of American troops off the peninsula, thank goodness.

Trump even parroted Kim blaming the United States for past North Korean failures to abide by their word:

He said that, you know, there are reasons [Kim Jung Il] didn’t [abide by his agreements] because he was let down by the United States, but that’s irrelevant. What he’s doing, and and he very much said that, he said you know over the years — first of all, they’ve never gone this far, you know, they’ve never been at a level like this, and his father never dealt with a president, and a lot of other things. But he said, it’s very much on his mind. He said, “We are going to get this done.” In the past we’ve tried, but it never worked out and it never did work out. And it was embarrassing actually to the United states and to our leadership.

Furthermore, Trump signaled that America’s military options are off the table – he explained that in a war, “I think you could have lost 20 million people or 30 million people. This is really an honor for me to do this. I think potentially you could have lost 30 million or 40 million people.” So much for the threat of force bringing Kim to the table.

Now, perhaps all of this is worth it. Perhaps something real does materialize from this meeting. If so, it will have been a masterstroke – a move of genius. If not, it’s a debacle. There’s no in-between here. President Trump treated Kim Jung Un with respect unbefitting one of the worst human beings on planet earth, particularly from the leader of the free world. He better get something extraordinary in exchange.

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