I’m going to try and be cool about this, and look beyond my loathing of Donald Trump, and look at this summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un in the most positive light, and here’s my assessment of the situation: Donald Trump did something no other President has done in meeting face to face with a North Korean leader.
But there’s also a reason no other President has done that, and it’s because it elevates a country immensely to have them seen on an even playing field on the world stage with the United States. Last night, Donald Trump shook hands with a brutal dictator and called him an honorable man. Our flags were next to his flags.
Which is more disrespectful to the flag, kneeling or displaying it next to the flag of a brutal dictator who oppresses his people and maintains power through murder? Asking for a friend who plays football. pic.twitter.com/NwxMG9Ks0G— Bill Prady (@billprady) June 12, 2018
If you want to look at it another way, you can look at it like this: No North Korean leader has ever sat down with the President of the United States. This makes Kim Jong Un a hero to his people. A man who runs a police state, has forced labor camps where he starves his own citizens, and has brutally assassinated members of his own family has secured a one-on-one meeting with the “leader of the free world,” one in which he convinced our POTUS to discontinue certain military exercises in South Korea, which were specifically designed to remind North Korea that we are committed to South Korea.
That’s a huge victory for Kim Jong Un, and what did we get in return?
We signed a document.
If you knew nothing else about the history of the relationship between North Korea and the United States, that would look impressive, wouldn’t it?
But the truth is, Trump extracted no specific commitments from North Korea, while North Korea extracted at least one specific commitment from the United States: To cease those military exercises and pull our troops out of South Korea, and in a closed state like North Korea — where Western media does not get through — Kim Jong Un can spin that as a huge victory. When his people no longer see those tests taking place, they will see it as a victory.
It’s a huge concession for the United States, and Donald Trump is already justifying that concession by saying that he wanted to stop those military exercises anyway, because they were too expensive, as he told George Stephanoupolous:
I’m doing something that I’ve wanted to do from the beginning. We stopped playing those war games that cost us a fortune. You know, we’re spending a fortune, every couple of months we’re doing war games with South Korea, and I said, ‘What’s this costing?’ We’re flying planes in from Guam, we’re bombing empty mountains for practice. I said ‘I want to stop that and I will stop that, and I think it’s very provocative.
And what did we get in return? Ask the former CIA’s Deputy Division Chief for Korea:
This is very disappointing. Each of the four main points was in previous documents with NK, some in a stronger, more encompassing way. The denuke bullet is weaker than the Six Party Talks language. And no mention of CVID, verification, human rights.— Bruce Klingner (@BruceKlingner) June 12, 2018
Basically, Kim Jong Un gave Trump his word that he’d denuclearize, and this is the word of a man who has over 100,000 people in gulag-style prisons, who he tortures and starves to death, so … you know? The word of Kim Jong Un is worth even less than the word of Donald Trump. And it’s not like past North Korean leaders haven’t made promises, either, none of which they have kept.
And Trump seems to love this guy, saying that he has “a great personality. He’s a funny guy, he’s very smart, he’s a great negotiator. He loves his people… I know people where there is no chemistry no matter what you do you just don’t have it. We had it right from the beginning …. His country does love him. His people, you see the fervor. They have a great fervor.”
Of course, they have great fervor — the alternative is being sent to a labor camp and tortured.
This is the most complimentary Trump has been about any foreign leader, and it’s not even close.— Daniel Dale (@ddale8) June 12, 2018
This is probably the most telling statement from the President:
Trump says he trusts Kim Jong Un. And if he's wrong? "I may be wrong, I mean I may stand before you in six months and say, 'Hey I was wrong,'" said Trump, before adding, "I don't know that I'll ever admit that, but I'll find some kind of an excuse." https://t.co/J2k6ehVhW1 pic.twitter.com/onKaUHP2f3— CNN Breaking News (@cnnbrk) June 12, 2018
At least he’s honest, for once.
But look: It’s a start. The odds of it leading to total denuclearization are not high. The odds of it reducing human rights violations in North Korea are nil. The odds of it leading South Korea to believe that we no longer prioritize their interests, on the other hand, are high.
But again, it’s a start — it’s something — and it’s much better than threatening nuclear war with ‘Little Rocket Man’ on Twitter. However, it is worth noting that the Iran Nuclear deal — which actually produced detailed commitments from Iran — was much, much tougher than that namby-pamby joint agreement that Trump signed.