Although I had predicted Trump would get nothing, I was wrong; Trump got one thing. This morning the chryons running at the bottoms of our teevee screens declared that Kim Jong Un had agreed to denuclearization. It’s a lie, but it’s going to take a while for a lot of people to figure that out.
North Korea has committed to â€œwork toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.â€Â They’ve been saying exactly that for decades, even as they were building up their nuclear capability.Â They made the same promise to Bill Clinton in 1994. They made the same promise in 2005:
North Korea agreed Monday to end its nuclear weapons program in return for security, economic and energy benefits, potentially easing tensions with the United States after a two-year standoff over the North’s efforts to build atomic bombs.
The United States, North Korea and four other nations participating in negotiations in Beijing signed a draft accord in which the North promised to abandon efforts to produce nuclear weapons and re-admit international inspectors to its nuclear facilities.
Foreign powers said they would provide aid, diplomatic assurances and security guarantees and consider North Korea’s demands for a light-water nuclear reactor.
This agreement fell apart in 2007 in a flurry of blame-casting. So what’s different about Kim’s newest promise? Nicholas Kristoff:
The most remarkable aspect of the joint statement was what it didnâ€™t contain. There was nothing about North Korea freezing plutonium and uranium programs, nothing about destroying intercontinental ballistic missiles, nothing about allowing inspectors to return to nuclear sites, nothing about North Korea making a full declaration of its nuclear program, nothing about a timetable, nothing about verification, not even any clear pledge to permanently halt testing of nuclear weapons or long-range missiles.
Nobody with a functional cerebral cortex thinks Kim Jong Un is serious about denuclearization. He told Trump what Trump wanted to hear, and Trump is too stupid to see he was being conned. Here’s what Trump gave away:
Trump made a huge concession â€” the suspension of military exercises with South Korea. Thatâ€™s on top of the broader concession of the summit meeting itself, security guarantees he gave North Korea and the legitimacy that the summit provides his counterpart, Kim Jong-un.
Within North Korea, the â€œvery special bondâ€ that Trump claimed to have formed with Kim will be portrayed this way: Kim forced the American president, through his nuclear and missile tests, to accept North Korea as a nuclear equal, to provide security guarantees to North Korea, and to cancel war games with South Korea that the North has protested for decades.
And then there’s this:
There was also something frankly weird about an American president savaging Canadaâ€™s prime minister one day and then embracing the leader of the most totalitarian country in the world.
â€œHeâ€™s a very talented man,â€ Trump said of Kim. â€œI also learned that he loves his country very much.â€
InÂ an interview with Voice of America, Trump said â€œI like himâ€ and added: â€œHeâ€™s smart, loves his people, he loves his country.â€
Trump praised Kim in the news conference and, astonishingly, even adopted North Korean positions as his own, saying that the United States military exercises in the region are â€œprovocative.â€ Thatâ€™s a standard North Korean propaganda line. Likewise, Trump acknowledged thatÂ human rights in North KoreaÂ constituted a â€œrough situation,â€ but quickly added that â€œitâ€™s rough in a lot of places, by the way.â€ (Note thatÂ a 2014 United Nations reportÂ stated that North Korean human rights violations do â€œnot have any parallel in the contemporary world.â€)
Incredibly, Trump told Voice of America that he had this message for the North Korean people: â€œI think you have somebody that has a great feeling for them. He wants to do right by them and we got along really well.â€
Now, you know that if a Democratic president had done this exact same thing, a Republican Congress would have him impeached and removed from office by the following afternoon. And what else does this remind us of?
For Kim, the event was a coming out of sorts, a chance to show himself off to the world. He had a platform unlike any other â€“ and far greater than anything available to him in the closed, impoverished nation he so cruelly presides over. Here was an opportunity to legitimize himself and his nation, to put North Korea on an equal footing with the mighty United States.
By all indications, Kim departed the summit on Tuesday having achieved exactly that. President Trump and the members of his administration validated the North Korean leader in a way like never before. “[Kim] is very talented,” TrumpÂ saidÂ at his post-summit press conference. “Anybody that takes over a situation like he did at 26 years of age and is able to run it and run it tough…You can take 1 out of 10,000 could not do it.” Later, TrumpÂ toldÂ ABC’s George Stephanopoulos: “He trusts me, and I trust him.”
And what did the U.S. get in exchange? A vague,Â four-point joint statementÂ in which North Korea vaguely commits to the “complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula” with no way to verify that commitment. Trump got played by a dictator half his age.
See also Jonathan Freedland, “Trump really has achieved a historic breakthrough â€“ for the Kim dynasty”
Update: Well, this clears everything up. From a Trump press conference:
MEDIA: What timetable do you envision for their denuclearization and in the meantime are you thinking about easing any sanctions?
TRUMP: You know scientifically, Iâ€™ve been watching and reading a lot about this, and it does take a long time to pull off complete denuclearization, it takes a long time. Scientifically you haveÂ to wait certain periods of time and a lot of things happen. But despite that, once you start the process it means itâ€™s pretty much over, you canâ€™t use em. Thatâ€™s the good news, andâ€¦ I believe thatâ€™s going to start very soon. We will do it as fast as it canÂ mechanically and physically be done, Steve.