By Jon Dougherty
As POTUS Donald Trump departed for Hanoi, Vietnam on Monday to attend his second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, the #NeverTrump mainstream media (MSM) and congressional Democrats were going to incredible lengths to pour cold water on his mission.
CNN‘s national security analyst John Kirby, a retired U.S. Navy rear admiral, wondered if the trip was a serious effort to denuclearize North Korea and bring lasting peace to the world’s most heavily fortified peninsula or just an “ego trip” for the president:
Given the challenges Trump faces, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at the broader historical context of presidential summits and question their value. Is meeting with Kim at this stage even worth the time and effort? What approach to diplomacy does this summit embody? Can Trump succeed on the strength of his personality alone?
Kirby interviewed Dr. David Reynolds, a British historian and professor at Cambridge University who has studied at Ivy League schools and has written and taught extensively on international diplomacy. One question Kirby asked set the tone:
Donald Trump likes to fashion himself as a deal-maker and seems enamored by the personal and laudatory communication with Kim. Could this be a case where personality really can overcome our historic challenges with North Korea and the lack of any real progress made by lower-level staff? In other words, is this the kind of problem that can only be solved by the leaders themselves?
Reynolds, by the way, has only taught and written about international diplomacy. According to his Wikipedia bio, he’s never actually conducted international diplomacy, so it’s fair to question his expertise. POTUS Trump, by comparison, has actual experience in the field.
Fortune writer Nick Wadhams, who also doesn’t appear to have any diplomatic credentials, opined that Kim’s objective is to just get The Donald “alone” so he can extract any amount of concessions he wants because the president just wants ‘a deal,’ no matter what, even if it’s lousy for America (though POTUS is the “America First” president).
“…[F]or North Korea, the president’s habit of making concessions on the fly presents an opportunity that’s likely to lead negotiators from Pyongyang to disregard the president’s staff to focus on what he might offer,” he wrote.
Former Obama National Security Adviser Susan Rice, who lied repeatedly to media outlets and the American people about the terrorist attack Sept. 11, 2012, in Benghazi, and whose boss made no progress whatsoever with North Korea, fretted in The New York Times that Trump will ‘cave‘ to Kim during their Vietnam summit:
The United States can make progress toward reducing the North Korean nuclear threat if Mr. Trump is disciplined in his diplomacy…
On the eve of his departure for his second summit with the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, President Trump said: “I don’t want to rush anybody. I just don’t want testing. As long as there is no testing, we’re happy.” Last April, Mr. Kim announced a halt to testing nuclear weapons and missiles, a positive but reversible step. Still, with an arsenal estimated to contain dozens of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles that can reach the continental United States, the North Korean threat remains as urgent and serious as ever.
Remarkably, President Trump has declared himself content with a nuclear armed North Korea. Not only is this a dangerous reversal of decades of American policy, which has long sought the “complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula, it amounts to acceptance of North Korea as a nuclear state.
For Mr. Trump, diplomacy with North Korea has always been about theater and politics. In falsely declaring after his first summit with Mr. Kim that “there is no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea,” while bragging that the risk of war — which he foolishly stoked — is now diminished, the president is intent on creating the illusion of progress. In fact, there has been none toward our core goal of full denuclearization.
Again, her boss, President Obama, not only made zero progress with North Korea, he never even met with him. The Vietnam confab is Trump’s second with Kim in less than a year; the two first met in Singapore in June.
In fact, no president since the Korean War has made as much progress towards ensuring peace on the peninsula than Donald Trump.
While former administration partisans and so-called experts pontificate about the president’s chances in dealing with North Korea, and while Democrats cynically suggest he is willing to sacrifice U.S. national security so he can announce a deal — any deal — with Pyongyang to take convicted liar Michael Cohen’s testimony off the front pages, here are President Trump’s achievements thus far with North Korea:
— Kim has not conducted any ballistic missile tests in about year, when talks between the Trump administration and Pyongyang began at the Winter Olympics in South Korea in February 2018.
— According to 38 North, an expert analysis site focused on North Korea, “Commercial satellite imagery of North Korea’s Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center from February 2019 indicates that despite recent assertions that the 5 MWe reactor is running, there are no obvious indicators that it or the Experimental Light Water Reactor (ELWR) are operating.” Translated: No uranium processing is underway.
— Kim has destroyed his principle nuclear weapons testing site.
— Kim destroyed a missile-testing site ahead of his first summit with POTUS Trump.
Notes 38 North:
President Donald Trump on Sunday, during an address to state governors, said, “I’m not in a rush, I don’t want to rush anybody, I just don’t want testing. As long as there’s no testing, we’re happy.” For those hoping to see a concrete agreement with North Korea that verifiably denuclearizes North Korea in the near future and in one comprehensive step, Trump’s statement comes as a disappointment. However, the value the president assigns to the absence of nuclear and missile testing is not misplaced and supports a phased approach to denuclearization. Without additional testing, North Korea’s capacity to threaten the United States with nuclear weapons is unreliable and questionable.
Unlike Democrats and the Left-wing media, 38 North has a helpful suggestion for the president as he begins his second summit:
While the administration claims the absence of testing as a successful outcome of the engagement process, North Korea has declared a moratorium on nuclear and missile testing. Kim could change his mind at any time and immediately resume testing of long-range missiles. The administration should therefore use the upcoming US-DPRK summit in Hanoi to negotiate a formal, verifiable long-range missile test ban with Pyongyang. Such a ban, if implemented fully, would limit the viability of North Korea’s long-range strike capacity, strengthen US security commitments to South Korea and Japan, and protect American lives. It would also provide momentum for bolder, more ambitious steps toward a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula.
There are those who don’t believe that Kim will ever give up his nuclear weapons program. That may be true; he and his country have spent a lot of resources building a nuclear capability. However, if POTUS Trump can dramatically deescalate tensions on the peninsula and move all parties towards lasting peace, even if Pyongyang retains a nuclear capability, who can reasonably call his effort a failure?
- Follow Jon Dougherty on Twitter at @JonDougherty10
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