After the Trump-Kim Failure

The president was right to walk rather than accept a bad deal, but look out ahead.

President Trump was right to walk away from his summit with Kim Jong-un rather than accept a bad nuclear agreement, but the outcome underscores that he was bamboozled last year at his first summit with Kim. Whatever genius Trump sees in the mirror, “the art of the deal” is not his thing.

At this meeting, Kim apparently sought a full end to sanctions on North Korea in exchange for closing only some nuclear sites. That was not a good deal, and Trump was right to walk rather than accept it.

“Basically they wanted the sanctions lifted in their entirety, but we couldn’t do that,” Trump said, adding: “Sometimes you have to walk.”

President Reagan famously marched out of a 1986 summit in Reykjavik, Iceland, rather than accept an arms control agreement with Russia that he regarded as flawed. A year later the Russians returned with better terms and a deal was made — and we can all hope that something similar will happen this time.

Still, there are significant risks ahead. The most important is that North Korea may return to testing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, for that would mark a huge escalation of tensions and renewed concerns about brinkmanship and war.

Unfortunately, North Korea is an otherwise unimportant country that gets attention only when it behaves provocatively. So its leaders have learned that their best leverage is to fire missiles, detonate warheads, or start up nuclear complexes.

While Trump was right to walk in this case, he also seems to have played his hand poorly in the run-up to the summit. In particular, he signaled that he eagerly wanted a deal and that “fantastic success” was likely, all of which probably led Kim to raise demands in the belief that Trump would fold.

With normal presidents, summit deals are largely agreed upon ahead of time. As one veteran diplomat put it, presidents pull rabbits out of hats, after diplomats have worked diligently ahead of time to stuff the rabbits into the hats. But Trump has never had much patience for that meticulous diplomatic process, instead placing excessive faith in breakthroughs arising from personal relationships — and his faith was clearly misplaced this time.

The North Korean side had refused to hash out the summit outcome in advance with the highly regarded U.S. special envoy, Stephen Biegun, presumably because Kim thought that he could outfox Trump in person in Hanoi the way he had in Singapore nine months ago.

The collapse of the latest talks also underscores how misguided Trump was at that earlier meeting. He didn’t understand that Kim uses “denuclearization” to mean something different than the meaning in the United States, and he gave Kim the enormous gift of legitimacy that comes with a summit, without getting anything comparable in return.

The collapse of the latest talks also underscores how misguided Trump was at that earlier meeting. He didn’t understand that Kim uses “denuclearization” to mean something different than the meaning in the United States, and he gave Kim the enormous gift of legitimacy that comes with a summit, without getting anything comparable in return.

It is also distasteful to see Trump praising Kim and referring to him as “my friend” and a “great leader,” and, last year, asserting that Kim had sent him “beautiful letters” and that “we fell in love.” It’s perfectly appropriate to engage with ruthless dictators, but fawning over them is a betrayal of our values.

Former North Korean Diplomat Warns of Deception at Hanoi Summit

Trump should push Kim to rejoin nuclear nonproliferation treaty, ex-official says

The highest-ranking North Korean official to defect in recent years said the U.S. should press Pyongyang to rejoin the nuclear nonproliferation treaty as a step toward denuclearization and warned that the North would try to deceive Washington by offering hollow concessions when the two sides meet next week.

Thae Yong Ho, a senior North Korean diplomat until 2016, said that pledging to rejoin the treaty would help commit Pyongyang to disarmament, as the agreement obliges signatories to refrain from acquiring nuclear weapons and mandates inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency. North Korea, which withdrew from the treaty in 2003, isn’t recognized as a nuclear state by the international community, though it has tested six nuclear weapons.

.. Mr. Thae said that North Korea would likely offer to shut its Yongbyon complex—used to enrich material needed to build nuclear weapons—and allow international inspectors to verify its closure in return for partial sanctions relief. But agreeing to this would be a mistake, he warned.

There are 390 nuclear facilities [inside the Yongbyon complex]. Even if there is an agreement, the act of inspecting, dismantling, then verifying the facilities’ closure won’t be completed within President Trump’s term,” he told a news conference.

In the meantime, North Korea could keep its arsenal while gaining an immediate reprieve from sanctions. The North Koreans know this, and that’s why they’re dangling Yongbyon, he said.

Mr. Thae was North Korea’s deputy ambassador to London when he defected with his family to South Korea. He worked with the top leadership in Pyongyang, including the foreign minister, and was once filmed accompanying Mr. Kim’s older brother, Kim Jong Chol, to an Eric Clapton concert. He published a memoir last year detailing North Korea’s negotiating strategies.

.. Mr. Thae likened the Kim regime to an unscrupulous used-car salesperson, saying it would try to deceive U.S. negotiators by offering to give up things it didn’t really need, such as some of its intercontinental ballistic missiles.
“They’re going to repaint their broken-down car, make it look new, and then sell it,” he said.

.. A former North Korean official who defected to the South in the 1990s said that the Yongbyon nuclear complex suffered frequent radiation leaks and that workers couldn’t stay there beyond six months.

Nancy Pelosi ran rings around Trump. Imagine what Kim Jong Un and the Taliban will do.

On Jan. 17, President Trump tweeted: “No ‘Cave’ on the issue of Border and National Security.” Eight days later, he caved, agreeing to reopen the government for three weeks without getting a penny for his border wall. His right-wing allies are spluttering in rage, but they shouldn’t be surprised. This debacle confirms that Trump is not the “ultimate negotiator” he purports to be. He is, in fact, a lousy negotiator. Now he may be on the verge of concluding the worst deals of the century by pulling U.S. troops out of South Korea and Afghanistan in return for empty promises from Kim Jong Un and the Taliban.

Trump is preparing for a second summit at the end of February with Kim even though the North Korean dictator continues to expand, rather than dismantle, his nuclear and missile programs. In his New Year’s address, Kim demanded substantial concessions before he would begin to make good on his vague promises of denuclearization made at the June 12, 2018, Singapore summit. He wants a relaxation of sanctions, an end to U.S.-South Korean military exercises, a peace declaration ending the Korean War and the removal of U.S. nuclear weapons from the region.

National security adviser John Bolton, supposedly a hard-liner, just signaled that the administration may give North Korea what it wants. He told the Washington Times, in an interview published Friday, that “what we need from North Korea is a significant sign of a strategic decision to give up nuclear weapons, and it is when we get that denuclearization that the president can begin to take the sanctions off.” So much for the administration’s previous position that the United States would not relax sanctions until North Korea agreed to “complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization.” Bolton is signaling that in exchange for some “significant sign,” perhaps such as dismantling the antiquated Yongbyon nuclear reactor, Washington might grant North Korea sanctions relief and a peace declaration, even if the North Korean nuclear and missile arsenal remained intact.

..Given that Seoul and Washington are currently deadlocked over the terms of an agreement to retain U.S. troops in South Korea — Trump initially wanted South Korea to nearly double its financial contribution, to $1.6 billion — it’s not hard to imagine the president using an empty agreement with North Korea as an excuse to begin pulling the troops out. Combined with a peace declaration and a relaxation of sanctions, this could effectively leave Japan and South Korea to confront the North Korean nuclear threat on their own.

The same thing would almost surely happen in Afghanistan if U.S. troops withdrew. Even with U.S. military assistance, the democratically elected government in Kabul is losing ground against the Taliban. The government controls only a little more than half the country’s districts, and it is suffering heavy casualties, with President Ashraf Ghani admitting that more than 45,000 security personnel have been killed since 2014.

If U.S. troops pulled out, while Pakistan continued to support the Taliban, the insurgents could march into Kabul. And if the victorious Taliban reneged on their pledge to break with international terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda, what would we do about it? Presumably launch more cruise missiles of the kind that proved so ineffectual in 1998. If the pro-Western regime fell, the United States would be devoid of allies on the ground to fight the terrorists — and, in any case, there would be no appetite in the United States for a resumption of our longest war.

The surest way for the Taliban to achieve its objectives would be to agree to whatever conditions the United States demands for a troop withdrawal, knowing that, once the troops are gone, it would not be bound by mere pieces of paper. Likewise, Kim could vastly expand his power if he tricks the United States into withdrawing its forces from South Korea. The Taliban and the North Koreans may have just found the perfect patsy in Trump. Now that he has failed to build his wall, he will be even more desperate for a foreign policy “win.” If I were a South Korean or an Afghan, I would be worried about being abandoned.

Comments:

So far, the world’s ‘greatest negotiator’ has been rolled by:

  • Putin
  • Xi
  • MBS
  • Erdogan
  • Kim Jong Un
  • and, Nancy Pelosi…

    It appears that Trump is all big mouth and small everything else.

.. It’s ironic that hawks like Pompeo & Bolton are facilitating the abject surrender of long term American objectives because the toddler-in-chief requires constant praise and has a very short attention span.

Kim and Trump Back at Square 1: If U.S. Keeps Sanctions, North Will Keep Nuclear Program

Nearly two years into his presidency and more than six months after his historic summit meeting with Kim Jong-un of North Korea, President Trump finds himself essentially back where he was at the beginning in achieving the ambitious goal of getting Mr. Kim to relinquish his nuclear arsenal.

That was the essential message of Mr. Kim’s annual New Year’s televised speech, where he reiterated that international sanctions must be lifted before North Korea will give up a single weapon, dismantle a single missile site or stop producing nuclear material.

The list of recent North Korean demands was a clear indicator of how the summit meeting in Singapore last June altered the optics of the relationship more than the reality. Those demands were very familiar from past confrontations: that

  1. all joint military training between the United States and South Korea be stopped, that
  2. American nuclear and military capability within easy reach of the North be withdrawn, and that
  3. a peace treaty ending the Korean War be completed.

“It’s fair to say that not much has changed, although we now have more clarity regarding North Korea’s bottom line,’’ Evans J.R. Revere, a veteran American diplomat and former president of the Korea Society, wrote in an email.

Pyongyang refused to accept the United States’ definition of ‘denuclearization’ in Singapore,’’ he wrote.

To the United States, that means

  • the North gives up its entire nuclear arsenal;

in the North’s view, it includes

  • a reciprocal pullback of any American ability to threaten it with nuclear weapons.

The two competing visions of denuclearization have not changed since then.”

Mr. Trump and Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, who is supposed to turn Mr. Trump’s enthusiasms into diplomatic achievements, dispute such conclusions. They note that the tone of one of the world’s fiercest armed standoffs has improved. It has, and both leaders say they want to meet again.

In a tweet on Tuesday night, Mr. Trump cited Mr. Kim’s offers not to produce or proliferate weapons, without mentioning the many caveats. He went on to say that he looked forward “to meeting with Chairman Kim who realizes so well that North Korea possesses great economic potential!”

He swung to the other extreme, declaring after Singapore that the nuclear threat from the North was overa statement even his most loyal aides have not repeated — and that he and one of the world’s most notorious dictators “fell in love.”

.. By some measures there has been modest progress. It has been 13 months since the North tested a nuclear weapon or a long-range missile, a change that Mr. Trump and Mr. Pompeo cite as the first fruits of what some officials now concede will be a long diplomatic push.

.. But Mr. Trump’s strategic goal, from the moment he vowed to “solve” the North Korea problem rather than repeat the mistakes of past presidents, has been to end the North Korean nuclear and missile threat, not suspend it in place.