The Vacuity of Trump’s NK Policy
More evidence that Trump really doesn't know what he is doing. (Or just doesn't care).
Since Doug Mataconis blogged about this general topic before I could (Kim Jong-Un Announces End Of Testing Moratorium), let me just add the following (via the Reuters/NYT):
“But he did sign a contract, he did sign an agreement talking about denuclearization. … That was done in Singapore, and I think he’s a man of his word, so we’re going to find out,” Trump told reporters at his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida.
You can see full video of the clip here. In the ellipsis above is omitted Trump noting how “denuclearization” was in the first sentence of the “contract.”
First, and most importantly, what was issued was a joint statement by Trump and Kim and it was wholly nonbinding. Trump either actually thinks it is a contract of some sort or he is consciously (and continually) lying about the nature of the document (or, really, he doesn’t care and only says what is of use to himself at the moment). At a minimum, whether through ignorance, untruth, or cynical manipulation of his followers, he clearly does not actually care about substantive policy regarding North Korea.
We are more or less where anyone who knows anything about Korea knows: this is pretty much where we were going to end up despite photo ops and very beautiful letters.
Second, it continues to astound and baffle that supporters of Trump just fall in line as he praises Kim Jong Un as being “a man of his word” let alone simply treating him like an honest broker. I get how a low information voter who may not know much about the country, save in the vaguest of terms, might think some progress is being made. However, the cravenness of leader of the Republican party, as well as huge chunks of “conservative” media, is pretty remarkable.
And yes, all of that behavior has to be viewed through the lens of keeping power (whether it be re-election or ratings) and thus is amenable to explanation. It still does not make it any less craven nor any less remarkable.
Regardless of explanations, the respect and deference that Trump shows to Kim Jong Un, in contrast to his rude disdain for G7 and NATO allies, is more than a bit sickening.
On the most minor of issues, I would note that denuclearization is not mentioned in the first sentence of the document (yes, I know, it is shocking that Trump exaggerated in a way that was false). Presumably he is referring to the following, the first sentence of the third paragraph:
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:
Not only does this not equate to an agreement to actually do anything, as I noted in 2018, the US and North Korea have different views of what “denuclearization” means.
To get down to the bottom line: none of this advances US interests in the region. None of this makes South Korea safer. And while one can rightly note that Trump’s various PR stunts with Kim have been of marginal significance, they do continue to signal, given Trump’s broader interactions with world leaders, that the President of United States is more comfortable with dangerous dictators than he is with the democratically elected leaders of our allies.
So, in short: no progress on the national security front and general erosion of America’s global reputation and influence.