It’s time for the Trump administration to put up or shut up regarding North Korea.
With the release of hostages and the impending historic meeting in Singapore with Kim Jung-un, the president is wallowing in his diplomatic achievements. As usual he’s a bit premature.
There is still much to be accomplished. Scheduling a meeting with the rogue despot of North Korea, whose family has befuddled previous US presidents relating to the country’s nuclear arsenals, is hardly a diplomatic victory.
What is the definition of success? Trump has said it repeatedly. One, Korea must give up or dismantle its nuclear weapons and the facilities that produce them. Two, the international community of nations must be able to verify the previous action without any resistance or exemptions.
Note: In the press today it was written that the negotiations of a mutually agreeable summit location were impacted by the ability of Kim to travel safely in his own aircraft to the site. One might ask how North Korea supposedly has nuclear weapons that can fly several thousand miles, but no aircraft that can transport its leader to a meeting.
The potential problems with the summit are fairly obvious. Kim, his father and grandfather repeatedly rejected US threats about its nuclear development over the past half century. The current dilemma, North Korea’s current arsenal of weapons and large standing army at the doorstep of South Korea, has arisen because of ineffective diplomatic acumen by previous American presidents.
Moreover, the ambivalence of China has been startling. Why would current and former regimes turn a blind eye and allow North Korea to build a powerful weapon? Why haven’t Chinese leaders been concerned with a rogue nation that abuts their country having nuclear weapons?
The evolution of North Korea and the tension it has created for South Korea, Japan and the US was fostered by China, which preferred a nuclear threat on its border to possible unification of the Korean peninsula led by west-leaning South Korea.
Kim has received a lot of attention from the world as he responded aggressively to US threats. The big question is how will Kim react to not being the center of attention sans a nuclear weapon?
Kim may now be employing a longer-term strategy. With the ultimate bargaining chip (his weapons) he can negotiate very favorable economic terms with, not only China, but also with the US and South Korea. All the money and effort that has gone into the nuclear program could result in a bonanza for North Korea’s fledgling and failing economy.
Besides favorable trade agreements, foreign investment and strong defense pacts, Kim will no longer need to spend money on costly military assets, probably the country’s largest expenditures.
Will Kim be able to deal with insignificance and irrelevance as a tiny nation, and will he be able to trust the US?
It’s up to Trump and his surrogates to convince Kim that economic and military security are more valuable than wielding a nuclear weapon. Also a good deal for North Korea could solidify Kim’s position of power in his own country. He’s a young man and could be his nation’s leader for many years.
For Trump this negotiation is huge. Every new initiative is his most important accomplishment. Along with immigration and tax reform, making peace with North Korea and eliminating, repeat, eliminating a nuclear confrontation, could seal the president’s domestic political fate.
If the North Korean negotiations are a replay of past failures, his opponents will mock Trump viciously. This leads one to believe that Trump, like Obama, will do almost anything to complete a deal. Will the deal be strong and good for the US and its allies, unlike the Iran nuclear arrangement? We shall see.