“President Trump was right to walk away from his summit with Kim Jong-un rather than accept a bad nuclear agreement, but the outcome underscores that he was bamboozled last year at his first summit with Kim. Whatever genius Trump sees in the mirror, “the art of the deal” is not his thing.
At this meeting, Kim apparently sought a full end to sanctions on North Korea in exchange for closing only some nuclear sites. That was not a good deal, and Trump was right to walk rather than accept it.
“Basically they wanted the sanctions lifted in their entirety, but we couldn’t do that,” Trump said, adding: “Sometimes you have to walk.”
President Reagan famously marched out of a 1986 summit in Reykjavik, Iceland, rather than accept an arms control agreement with Russia that he regarded as flawed. A year later the Russians returned with better terms and a deal was made — and we can all hope that something similar will happen this time.”
“An optimistic take on Donald Trump’s historic meeting Tuesday with Kim Jong-un is that it’s Geneva Redux — a reprise of the 1985 summit between Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev that established their rapport, fundamentally altered the tenor of relations between the superpowers and led within a few years to the end of the Cold War.
Let’s hope so. Because another take is that it’s the Plaza Redux, meaning the 1988 real estate debacle in which Trump hastily purchased New York’s Plaza Hotel because it looked like an irresistible trophy, only to be forced to sell it at a loss a few years later as part of a brutal debt restructuring.
The case for Geneva Redux, made this week by Peter Beinart in The Atlantic, sees parallels between Trump and Reagan, Republican presidents whose hawkish rhetoric and ignorance of policy details disguised an inner pragmatism and visionary imagination.
“Trump’s lack of focus on the details of denuclearization may be a good thing,” Beinart writes. “Like Reagan, he seems to sense that the nuclear technicalities matter less than the political relationship.” “
by Tyler Cowen June 12, 2018 at 8:46 am in Current Affairs Political Science
“Many of you have asked what I think, so here goes:
1. There is a secret (and unenforceable) deal beneath what is reported. You may think this is good or bad, but for heaven’s sake don’t just be judging the press release.
2. If they didn’t actually agree to anything, that is fine.
3. I am reading so much yelping about how Trump “legitimized” Kim. The status quo ex ante simply was terrible, and there is no reason to think this change is for the worse. Trump’s great “virtue” in this regard was simply to be some mix of ignorant/disrespectful of the prior “expert consensus” and approach the problem afresh with a rather direct transactional and person-centered, personality-centered mentality.
4. As I tweeted: “Isn’t the whole point of the “deal” just to make them go visit Singapore? The real spectacle is not always where you are looking. And I hope someone brought them to the right chili crab place.”
The goal is to show the North Korean leadership there is a better way than playing the Nuclear Hermit Kingdom game. We won’t know for some time whether this has succeeded. Here is good FT coverage on this point. There are in fact numerous signs that the North Koreans are considering serious reforms. Of course those could be a feint, but the probabilities are rising in a favorable direction. Economic cooperation with South Korea is increasing at an astonishing pace.”
It sure looks as if President Trump was hoodwinked in Singapore.
Trump made a huge concession — the suspension of military exercises with South Korea. That’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 “very special bond” 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.
In exchange for these concessions, Trump seems to have won astonishingly little. In a joint statement, Kim merely “reaffirmed” the same commitment to denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula that North Korea has repeatedly made since 1992.
“They were willing to de-nuke,” Trump crowed at his news conference after his meetings with Kim. Trump seemed to believe he had achieved some remarkable agreement, but the concessions were all his own.
This writer loves Nicholas Kristof, and this is another thoughtful piece by him. However, I have more to add to it. I agree with the NYT commenter, that it was nothing to Trump to give up the war games with South Korea, this was one of his promises to his base. I’m not sure he lost anything he cares about, since what he actually won, was the taking over and dominating of the American and world press. He successfully made himself the center of attention. That he shredded our relations with our NATO allies, and praised won of the most brutal dictators in the world, is a small price to pay for so much attention.
I do like another comment, that this is just a tempest in a teapot. We are not out of danger, if Trump gets wind that he has been perceived as the weaker negotiator, in front of the whole world, he might get belligerent. Kudos to the president of South Korea for bringing this thawing about.
An expert on NPR made the astute comment, that North Korea is subtly re-balancing their position in East Asia, moving slightly towards the west, and making themselves less reliant on China, the hungry elephant in the room. Or is China a Chimera: “(in Greek mythology) a fire-breathing female monster with a lion’s head, a goat’s body, and a serpent’s tail.”
It is also important that Kim Jung-un has declared, his nuclear deterrent is in place, and he promises to his people he will improve the North Korean economy. So as long as we are patient, there is opportunity for peaceful improvement.
David Lindsay Jr. is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion, Historical Fiction of Eighteenth-century Vietnam,” and blogs at TheTaySonRebellion.com and InconvenientNewsWorldwide.wordpress.com
“Shock! Horror! President Trump is actually doing something right.
Sadly, Democrats in Congress are responding in a quite Trumpian way: They seem more concerned with undermining him than supporting a peace process with North Korea. They are on the same side as National Security Adviser John Bolton, quietly subverting attempts to pursue peace.
While international security is complicated, here’s a rule of thumb: When you find yourself on the same side as Bolton, go back and re-examine your position.
Sure, we all wish that Trump treated Justin Trudeau or Angela Merkel with the respect that he now shows Kim Jong-un. Yes, it seems that Trump has been played by Kim. Yet another way of putting it is that Trump is finally investing in the kind of diplomatic engagement that he used to denounce, and that we should all applaud.
Trump’s newfound pragmatism is infinitely preferable to the threat of nuclear war that used to hang over all of us, so it’s mystifying to see Democrats carping about any possible North Korea deal.”
“. . . . . Now a similar partisan petulance seems to be turning some Democrats into spoilers. Trump’s engagement with North Korea has been chaotic and should have begun with working-level talks, but it’s still better for leaders to exchange handshakes than missiles.
Granted, there’s plenty of reason to be nervous about Trump’s deal making with North Korea, and plans can still collapse. How will Trump manage Kim when he can’t even manage a summit with the Philadelphia Eagles?
Still, even if North Korea won’t hand over nuclear weapons in the next few years, I can imagine it committing in coming months to a sustained moratorium on nuclear tests and long-range missile tests, on production of plutonium and uranium fuel, on transfer of nuclear technology to other countries, such as Syria. North Korea might also destroy an ICBM or two and accept inspectors at its nuclear sites in Yongbyon. Trump and Kim might agree to exchange liaison offices and to declare peace on the Korean Peninsula.
North Korea might well cheat, and these are half-steps, not rapid denuclearization. But half-steps toward peace are better than full strides toward war.”
Great writing, thank you Nicholas Kristof. The comments are mostly so negative. As my father liked to say, Don’t let the bastards get you down.
It is ethnocentric to expect North Korea to denuclearize now, but not naive, to think that peace would serve both Koreas and the world. Trump really needs to be contained, since he is so untrustworthy. The real work of peace will be by North and South Korea and their real neighbors.
Here is a comment that I found pleasantly optimistic and could recommend:
“United States-North Korean relations have been a rollercoaster in recent months. Escalating missile tests from Pyongyang and taunting tweets from the White House in 2017 were followed by a period of seeming rapprochement as President Trump and North Korea’s supreme leader, Kim Jong-un, agreed to meet for a summit to discuss “denuclarization.” And now things seem to be taking another turn for the worse.
On Thursday, Mr. Trump, in a fiery letter to Mr. Kim, called off the summit, following North Korea’s clarifications that it would not immediately give up its nuclear weapons. The Trump administration, led by the hawkish national security adviser John Bolton, seems to once again be contemplating military options. In his letter to Mr. Kim, Mr. Trump wrote, “You talk about your nuclear capabilities, but ours are so massive and powerful that I pray to God they will never have to be used.”
The results of any American military action against North Korea could be disastrous. To truly understand the consequences of what such a strike would mean, click through the options presented below.
This is an exercise based on what we know about American policy, North Korea’s military and the strategic calculus of Northeast Asia. It isn’t a sure thing, but it should make clear pretty quickly that the outcome of war on North Korea will be bad, worse or much, much worse.”
David Lindsay: To science based, law respecting environmentalists like myself, Donald Trump is an embarrassment and a disaster. This war game set of scenarios bypoints out many of the serious problems of going to war with North Korea. Sun Tzu would laugh himself into another life, if he could witness such foolishness. His disciples in China must be smiling, while his disciples in Vietnam are probably crying.
“It took almost two years to negotiate the final nuclear accord with Iran, which, unlike North Korea, did not possess nuclear weapons. Mr. Trump is on the verge of scrapping the Iran deal. That would be a monumental mistake in its own right, giving Iranian hard-liners the excuse to speed toward a breakout nuclear capacity, but without a united international coalition to oppose them or inspectors to expose them.
It would also make getting to yes with Pyongyang even more challenging. Iran is complying with the agreement. If Mr. Trump tears it up anyway, why would Mr. Kim trust anything Mr. Trump says or signs? And by scrapping the accord, Mr. Trump would set the bar almost impossibly high on any deal with North Korea, whose terms will have to be demonstrably better. Can Mr. Trump get Pyongyang to verifiably dismantle the vast bulk of its nuclear enterprise up front or accept the most intrusive inspections regime ever, as Mr. Obama did with Iran?
Instead of shredding the Iran accord, Mr. Trump should apply its basic template to North Korea. First, negotiate an interim deal that freezes Pyongyang’s program in place and starts to roll it back, gets inspectors on the ground and offers modest, carefully measured economic relief. Then use the resulting time to produce a more comprehensive agreement, ideally to include denuclearization and a peace treaty.
By some combination of accident and design, Mr. Trump has helped create a moment of opportunity in a place of enduring peril. If he keeps his eyes on the prize, he may not make it to Oslo, but he could make the world a less dangerous place.”
DL: Good advice, if anyone in the White House is listening to anything beyond Fox News.
PYEONGCHANG, South Korea — Officials from the Korea Meteorological Administration sat behind microphones in front of an overflow audience of journalists. Interpreters converted the officials’ words through the headsets of those unable to speak Korean. There was anxiousness. People put their thumbs to their phones, ready to share the news on Twitter immediately. It was as if Punxsutawney Phil were making his Groundhog Day weather prediction in a teeming conference room. The message was hardly a revelation:
“In 1988, the last time South Korea hosted the Olympics, North and South Korea were more alike than different, separated by an arbitrary line yet joined by history, language and the bonds of family.
Both Koreas had come a long way, emerging from colonial rule and rebuilding their economies after a devastating civil war.
But the Olympics in Seoul in 1988 ended up being a turning point. Over the past 30 years, the two countries have diverged sharply — economically, politically and culturally.
South Korea rapidly industrialized, growing at one of the fastest rates in the world. The North stagnated.”
SEOUL, South Korea — North and South Korea reached an agreement Wednesday for their athletes to march together under one flag at the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics next month, a powerful gesture of reconciliation that further complicates President Trump’s strategy for dealing with the nuclear-armed regime of Kim Jong-un. South Korea, the host of the games, said it hoped a partnership in sports could contribute to a political thaw after years of high tensions on the Korean Peninsula. It came even a
Donald Trump’s military chest pounding against North Korea is an embarassement, and a danger to millions of people. America appears in this area as a rogue nation, as much as North Korea. It is brilliant of North and South Korea to start at least symbolic talks, to calm things down, and calm down the hyper aggressive United States under Trump. A better direction for US policy toward North Korea, would be to listen more carefully to China, Japan and South Korea, and our other Asian allies, and support their efforts to contain North Korea. The US also has to acknowledge that it is not the ruler of the world. We have no intrinsic right to forbid other countries from weapons that we build and stockpile ourselves. For us to bomb another nation for arming itself, as we have armed ourselves, makes us more of a war mongering, ethnocentric and totalitarian nation, than a beacon of freedom and democracy.