Don’t Let The Trump Administration Get Away With Lies About North Korea

The Trump Administration is falsely claiming that the North Koreans made commitments at the Singapore Summit that they clearly didn't agree to.

The Trump Administration continues to lie about what was agreed to at the Singapore Summit with Kim Jong Un:

The U.S. State Department said on Tuesday it expects Pyongyang to keep its commitment made at a June leaders’ summit to give up its nuclear arms and would press southeast Asian nations during meetings this week to maintain sanctions against North Korea.

Questions have arisen over Pyongyang’s commitment to denuclearize after U.S. spy satellite material detected renewed activity at the North Korean factory that produced the country’s first intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) capable of reaching the United States.

The department left open the possibility that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo could meet North Korean officials during meetings of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) bloc in Singapore this weekend.

“We will be in some of the same meetings as North Korean officials. I certainly can’t preclude any interaction taking place, but we have no meetings on the schedule,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters.

(…)

Pompeo has led talks with Pyongyang to denuclearize following a June summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump.

Nauert said the United States was holding Kim to the commitment he made during the summit to denuclearize.

She declined to comment on the spy satellite images.

“What we are going on is the commitment that Chairman Kim made to our president, and that is the commitment to denuclearize. That is something that we certainly anticipate that he will hold up his end of the bargain,” Nauert said.

As Daniel Larison notes, the assertion that the North Koreans agreed to give up their nuclear weapons at the Singapore Summit is, at its base, a complete and total fabrication. Nothing in the communique that was agreed to by President Trump and Kim Jong Un at the conclusion supports that conclusion, and for the State Department to insist that it does is quite simply to ignore reality. It is true that the statement does speak about the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, but this was little more than a general statement and it did not address the fact that the United States and North Korea have a very different idea of what “denuclearization” means. For the United States and its allies, of course, it means that the North Koreans will give up their nuclear weapons, their nuclear research program, and their ballistic missile research program in exchange for, well, pretty much nothing on the part of the United States and its allies. Indeed, in some versions of what the Administration appears to expect out of the DPRK, denuclearization would have to be a prerequisite to any discussions about a peace treaty formally ending the Korean War, the removal of allied forces from South Korea, or the lifting of sanctions. For the North Koreans, on the other hand,

When the North Koreans talk about “denuclearization,” though, they speak of the “denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.” This means not only some action on the part of the North Koreans, but also the understanding that the United States would remove any nuclear weapons it may have in the region and that it would renounce the idea of providing South Korea and Japan with a “nuclear umbrella,” which is essentially the threat that any attack on an American ally. It is also fairly clear that the North Koreans also include in their definition of “denuclearization” the idea that the American military presence in South Korea, and potentially in Japan, which the DPRK has made clear it considers to be part of the nuclear threat posed by the United States.

In addition to these very different ideas about what “denuclearization” means, the actions we’ve seen from the North Koreans since the summit make it clear that what was agreed to, if anything, was far less than meets the eye. It was barely two weeks after Trump and Kim met when it was reported that North Korea was increasing production of the fuel needed to make additional nuclear weapons and that it was concealing the existence of ongoing nuclear weapons research at secret facilities well hidden from both surveillance and, most likely, the ability of the United States to take the sites out in a military strike. Additionally, it became apparent in the days after the summit that the much-publicized destruction of the DPRK’s primary nuclear weapons test site, an event it had invited American and other international journalists to witness, was much less than met the eye and that the site could easily be rebuilt if needed in the future. This week, we learned that the DPRK had also begun work on the construction of new ballistic missiles at yet another secret site. As we sit here nearly two months since the summit, then, it was obvious that the reality of what had been accomplished at the summit did not meet the rhetoric.

As Larison notes, these misrepresentations on the part of the Trump Administration are important to call out because, potentially, they could end up forming the basis of an effort on their part to justify taking further punitive action against the North:

It is important to understand this because the administration may try to accuse North Korea of cheating or backtracking later on, but North Korea didn’t make any promises to disarm. There is no agreement to be violated, and there is no commitment for North Korea to follow through on. No bargain was struck, and so there is nothing for North Korea to do to fulfill its end of a non-existent bargain. Clinging to the lie that Kim made a commitment to disarm is absurd, and it makes it impossible to trust anything that the administration says about this issue.

Of course, it’s generally impossible to trust anything this Admnistration says about anything, so why should North Korea be any different?

FILED UNDER: Donald Trump, National Security, North Korea, Politicians, US Politics, ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Michael Reynolds says:

    Nonsense, Doug, the Emperor is fully-clothed, magnificently-clothed in fact, and any allegation that he’s stark naked is fake news.

    1) Run mouth, cause crisis.
    2) Hold meeting declare victory and an end to crisis,
    3) Return to status quo ante for us and. . .
    4) …A greatly enhanced status quo for Kim.

    Success!

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  2. CSK says:

    While all this is worth saying, it’s basically preaching to the converted. You know, I know, and any sentient being knows that Trump lied about the whole summit, which was a photo op for Kim.

    Unfortunately, the Trumpkins, the people who need to be convinced that Trump is a shameless fabulist, are more and more certain that only he tells the truth to them. Wasn’t there a poll cited the other day in which those Trumpkins questioned said they believed what Trump tells them more than they trust their families and friends? And what about the guy at the Florida rally who declared that he’d believe Trump if Trump told him he was going to turn the moon purple?

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  3. Kathy says:

    I’m concerned that the Cheeto is ignorant and obtuse enough to agree to denuclearization in North Korea’s terms. After all, wouldn’t removing all those troops, ships and planes from Japan and South Korea save like a trillion dollars?

    The Senate, one assumes, would not ratify such a treaty. But the Cheeto can order the troops and ships and planes to withdraw, and the bases to close, at any time. Yes, I know it’s not that simple, there are treaties, there are leases, there’s the reputation of the US at stake, but when has Mangolini given two cents for any of that?

    And all this before we even mention China.

  4. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    The WaPo has a new count…Dennison has lied 4,229 times in 558 days. In his first year the comb-over made 2,140 false or misleading claims…six months later he has nearly doubled that number. That’s 7.6 per day on average.
    Particularly despicable, however, is lying about the remains of our Korean soldiers for political gain.
    I wonder how many of his supporters, that fly those black POW-MIA flags, will hold him accountable?

  5. Kathy says:

    @CSK:

    Unfortunately, the Trumpkins, the people who need to be convinced that Trump is a shameless fabulist, are more and more certain that only he tells the truth to them.

    Sooner or later they have to catch on he’s lying.

    I hate to repeat myself, but that will also only happen when the economy goes bad, or possibly when enough of them are hurt by his tariffs.

    Unless, and I really want this so badly not to be so, the racism, sexism, etc. displayed by Trump is more important to these people even than their well-being. I sincerely hope they are as shallow as the Cheeto.

  6. MarkedMan says:

    @CSK:

    the people who need to be convinced that Trump is a shameless fabulist

    @Kathy:

    Sooner or later they have to catch on he’s lying.

    I’m with CSK in one sense – Trumpoids will never “catch on”, but at the same time I disagree with his supposition that they need to be convinced.

    Look, Trump supporters don’t “believe” him any more than they “believe” their team will win the 2020 World Series. They “embrace” him. They cheer for him. They have made him a substantial part of their identity and are not going to be swayed by reality or facts or logic. Not gonna happen. But fortunately, that’s not what we need to do. We need to convince something like 10-15% of Trumpoids that he is not worth their embrace. As an example, the Baltimore Orioles has a very loyal fan base. The vast majority will never quit on their team and they will argue and defend them till they die. But given their abysmal showing this year, they are having a lot of trouble filling the seats. Their fans are still their fans, but they don’t come out to support the team anymore. A similar disaffection amongst Trumpoids would show up not as an abandonment of their leader but as simply not voting. Not going to the rallies. That’s what we need.

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  7. MBunge says:

    So, to review, the people who were not only completely wrong about Donald Trump and North Korea but accomplished NOTHING with North Korea for decades before Trump’s election except to impotently watch North Korea acquire nuclear weapons are now whining about Trump claiming North Korea agreed to give up those weapons.

    Let me see if I can explain to you why this is stupid.

    1. If Trump is lying/exaggerating this, you should WANT him running around and doing it as often and as loudly as he can. That way when reality finally rears its ugly head, the damage to Trump will be maximized. On the other hand, constantly complaining and whining about Trump on this and every other issue is clearly burning out the public’s ability to give a damn. Again, look at the reaction in the polls to both your family separation spazz out and your Russia press conference conniption.

    2. The ultimate goal is to get rid of North Korea’s nukes and get it to start acting like a normal country. Trump is pretty clearly trying to use the ol’ carrot and stick approach to do that. Screaming bloody murder every time Trump dangles a carrot or raises a stick in the absence of… you know…an alternative approach, makes you look like you don’t care about anything except soothing your butt hurt by slamming Trump.

    Mike

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  8. Kathy says:

    @MBunge:

    Why do you keep removing all doubt?

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  9. James Pearce says:

    Of course, it’s generally impossible to trust anything this Admnistration says about anything, so why should North Korea be any different?

    But what does Official Government Twitter say?

  10. Kathy says:

    @MarkedMan:

    A similar disaffection amongst Trumpoids would show up not as an abandonment of their leader but as simply not voting. Not going to the rallies. That’s what we need.

    I agree, and I hope we get that.

    What worries me is what the Cheeto exposed: there’s a market for his kind of bigotry, and little inclination by half of the political establishment to stop him. The damage he’s done to america won’t be fully known, until a vicious demagogue with more competence and a clue shows up.

  11. teve tory says:

    You guys are Fake News jerkfaces. The Trump administration deserves the nobel prize for denuclearizing NoKo, according to the greatest political cartoonist ever.

    https://grrrgraphics.com/the-it-will-make-heads-explode-prize/

    #MAGA!

  12. teve tory says:

    Unfortunately, the Trumpkins, the people who need to be convinced that Trump is a shameless fabulist, are more and more certain that only he tells the truth to them. Wasn’t there a poll cited the other day in which those Trumpkins questioned said they believed what Trump tells them more than they trust their families and friends? And what about the guy at the Florida rally who declared that he’d believe Trump if Trump told him he was going to turn the moon purple?

    Ima hafta revise my opinion of Trumpers being highly intelligent people (with good values).

  13. teve tory says:

    I’m just waiting to see what entertaining things the trumpers say when NoKo inevitably tests another nuke.

  14. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @MBunge:
    You are really dumb.

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  15. JohnMcC says:

    @MarkedMan: What happens when Mr Trump isn’t President because of impeachment or losing a (“RIGGED!”) election? I worry that he will step up his rallying and stirring up to the point of virtual civil war. His base seems that devoted and with the internet to spread the equivalent of the ‘Turner Diaries’…well…an active imagination isn’t a comfort.

  16. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @teve tory: Not familiar enough with him, so I’m asking. Does he actually believe the stuff that goes in the diatribes that come with the cartoons?

  17. Kylopod says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    Not familiar enough with him, so I’m asking. Does he actually believe the stuff that goes in the diatribes that come with the cartoons?

    I think what MarkedMan said earlier bears repeating: It’s not so much whether they believe what they’re saying as that it’s an intensely important part of their identity to cheer for their team (and their god-emperor). Just look at the linked cartoon: the focus is not on Trump being proven correct, but about Trump causing his critics’ heads to explode. Their main goal in life is making liberals and the “establishment” mad, and based on that criteria, even I would agree Trump is succeeding in flying colors.

  18. Gustopher says:

    @MBunge: It’s not the fact that Trump failed that is so pathetic and laughable, but the fact that he proclaims his failure to have been a success when it obviously wasn’t.

    North Korea is a well entrenched regime, with nuclear weapons, backed by a regional-giant or small-Superpower. Previous administrations have failed to do anything other than contain the North Koreans, leading to the starvation of the North Korean people because the regime prioritizes their military defense over their people. It’s a hard problem, and simply not starting a massive war is a modest success.

    I don’t think containment has been working. It’s become a humanitarian disaster, and has had no effect on the leadership of North Korea. Engaging them seems like a less worse option. I’m not even deeply opposed to cancelling the military exercises on their doorstep, if it is part of a larger plan to engage them.

    But, we got nothing. We didn’t negotiate so much as Donald Trump rolled over on his back to get his belly rubbed, and then barked about what a rousing success it was. That’s pathetic. And sad. And laughable.

    So, where do we go from here? We now have less leverage, and got nothing, and at some point it is going to become apparent to even the most willfully ignorant person (in the White House) that whatever agreements he thought he had were nothing, and then he’s going to feel angry and betrayed and we’re going to have another crisis.

    Here’s my proposal — take that $12B in aid to farmers he wants to give out because of his failing trade war, and use that to buy up grains and deliver them as a humanitarian gesture to the North Koreans, no preconditions (and Trump’s agricultural bailout now serves national security purposes!). Explain the the North Koreans that the military exercises are off only so long as there are no nuclear tests or missile launches. Start negotiations on opening up business opportunities in North Korea — American investment for textile factories and other non-dual use technologies. Our strategies have to focus on the people of North Korea as much as the government.

    Once the people aren’t starving, they can worry about other things, like freedom. So, if we want change, we have to solve that first, and then work on creating a middle class there.

    But Trump doesn’t have a strategy, he’s just flailing in the wind, and declaring success.

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  19. Gustopher says:

    @Kylopod:

    Just look at the linked cartoon: the focus is not on Trump being proven correct, but about Trump causing his critics’ heads to explode. Their main goal in life is making liberals and the “establishment” mad, and based on that criteria, even I would agree Trump is succeeding in flying colors.

    This is why I think mockery really is one of the most important parts of opposing Trump. Not saying that protests are useless, or that lawsuits are inappropriate — a pitchfork has multiple spikes, and we should shove a metaphorical pitchfork up their asses.

    Who rallies around a laughingstock? I mean, other than Joe Biden supporters.

    (Joe Biden laughs at himself, so it makes his foibles and follies human and friendly… plus, they’re more awkward than pathetic gaffes)

  20. teve tory says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: Is he deranged, or an idiot? The world may never know…

  21. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @teve tory: Just like how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop. Got it. Thanks!