Friday, March 9, 2018

The Upcoming Trump-Kim Summit

Of course, we do not know what will come of it, but the announcement that President Trump will sit down with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un has generally been greeted with optimistic skepticism.

Some, on the left and right, have declared it an important diplomatic breakthrough. Many of those who worked with prior administrations on the North Korea problem are pessimistic. One would be happier if they would declare themselves interested parties—since they failed so miserably, they cannot tolerate or even entertain the thought that Trump might succeed.

Karen De Young in the Washington Post:

For the moment, at least, it appears to be a clear-cut victory — the biggest foreign policy win of his young administration. President Trump has brought his arch-nemesis, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, a.k.a. “Little Rocket Man,” to the table to negotiate away his nuclear arsenal.

Optimists declared a major breakthrough. Even pessimists acknowledged that Trump’s hard line against Pyongyang, after decades of less forceful U.S. effort, played a significant role in moving one of the world’s most vexing and threatening problems in a potentially positive direction.

From NewsbustersErin Burnett on CNN:

Just an extraordinary evening and, of course, opening the door to the big question: If President Trump can truly solve this problem, that would be going down as a great President and there’s no way around that. That is the reality here.

Elise Labott on CNN:

I think you have to trust but verify and the U.S. is not going to just give away everything. President Trump does have good advisers around him. I think it is a different moment. I think it's significant. I think President Trump, as we have said, does deserve credit for this maximum pressure campaign working, but I think you need to be skeptical about what the North Koreans are going to do. 

And then Mark Landler emphasizes the boldness of the gesture in the New York Times:

For Mr. Trump, a meeting with Mr. Kim, a leader he has threatened with “fire and fury” and has derided as “Little Rocket Man,” is a breathtaking gamble. No sitting American president has ever met a North Korean leader, and Mr. Trump himself has repeatedly vowed that he would not commit the error of his predecessors by being drawn into a protracted negotiation in which North Korea extracted concessions from the United States but held on to key elements of its nuclear program.

Meeting Mr. Kim now, rather than at the end of a negotiation when the United States would presumably have extracted concessions from North Korea, is an enormous gesture by the president. But Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim share a penchant for bold, dramatic moves, and their personal participation in a negotiation could take it in unexpected directions.

More hostile is David Ignatius in the Washington Post:

Certainly, Thursday night’s announcement of Trump-Kim direct talks is promising, and perhaps evidence that the president’s braggadocio and belligerence have produced results. But what I see is a North Korea that has become a nuclear-weapons state and now, from a position of strength, wants negotiations with America.

Trump thinks Kim is “sincere” in his offer to discuss denuclearization, but few colleagues share that hope. We’ll probably be chasing Kim around a negotiating table for a while, which is better than “duck and cover.” But as Carlin says, “Beep beep.”

And Peter Baker, also in the Times:

Shocking and yet somehow not surprising, Mr. Trump’s decision to do what no other sitting president has done and meet in person with a North Korean leader reflects an audacious and supremely self-confident approach to international affairs. Whether it is Middle East peace or trade agreements, Mr. Trump has repeatedly claimed that he can achieve what has eluded every other occupant of his office through the force of his own personality.

Baker, like Ignatius, says that Trump has nothing to show for his approach to diplomacy. One might mention the evolving situation in Saudi Arabia as a change of approach that is of great consequence. The formation of a Sunni Arab alliance against Islamist terrorism is not nothing. True enough, as Baker notes, the Israeli/Palestinian conflict has not ended, but, as Baker does not seem to understand, the Palestinians have lost the war, have lost the support of their Sunni allies and are trying to figure a face saving way out of their disastrous policy. Better a victory than a negotiation with terrorists.

And, while Trump made clear his gratitude toward Chinese President Xi Jinping for having supported the sanctions regime against North Korea far more than China ever has, not one of these sage commentators has noted that China is holding most of the cards here. In many ways Kim is Xi’s puppet. The people of North Korea are starving under the sanctions regime and the nation is bankrupt. Clearly these facts, largely ignored in many of the news stories made it reasonable for the American president to offer a face saving exit for the North Korean tyrant. For now, we do not know what is happening in the talks between North Korea and China, so we can only speculate.

We must emphasize that Trump seems to have improved relations with China, significantly. The Chinese leaders seem to respect him and his foreign policy team much more than they did the chronic whiners from the Obama administration. If they did not they would not have allowed the sanctions against North Korea to be enforced. We recall the important Wall Street Journal about the sanctions, even if no one else seems to.

As for the naysayers, the Trump critics who have staked their professional reputations on their approach to North Korea and who risk being humiliated, Baker begins with none other than Wendy Sherman.

He writes:

“In some ways there’s a symmetry,” said Wendy R. Sherman, a longtime former diplomat who was part of a historic American delegation to Pyongyang under President Bill Clinton and later negotiated the Irannuclear agreement for President Barack Obama. “You have two leaders who believe fundamentally that they are the only people who matter.”

Other presidents left talks with North Korea to lower-level officials because they did not want to reward Pyongyang with the prestige of such a meeting unless there was a substantial assurance of a breakthrough. They feared an ill-conceived gathering that resulted in failure would be counterproductive….

Diplomacy is a positive, Ms. Sherman said. “But this is a diplomacy that has to be prepared. It’s why Bill Clinton didn’t drop everything and go to Pyongyang.” She added: “This is very serious business. It is not a reality show. And it’s our national security that is at stake.”

This is breathtaking. A woman who bears considerable personal responsibility, along with Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, for having opened a path by which North Korea could acquire nuclear weapons should not be pontificating about diplomacy. Sherman’s diplomacy involved submission to tyrants. In North Korea and also in Iran. She is not the most responsible party, but she does bear responsibility for the mess. If she had a sense of shame she would shut up.

Given the abysmal Obama record negotiating with Iran… which no one seems to care about in the New York Times... more officials of that administration are using the occasion to help the world forget about its own dereliction.

Baker reports:

“Trump sees himself as a master negotiator, and yet is not particularly good at it,” said Colin Kahl, a former national security official under Mr. Obama. “He isn’t thoughtful or steeped in the types of details required for this type of diplomacy. He is prone to manipulation and flattery. He often makes threats he doesn’t follow through on and promises he can’t or won’t keep. And he often throws allies under the bus. This does not add up to a recipe for success, and the stakes could not be higher.”

And John Kirby, Navy admiral become John Kerry’s flack at the State Department seems to fear that Trump might accomplish something:

Kim “has more credibility at negotiating table now because he has more capable militarily and he’s not going to give that up anytime soon and so he knows he’s going into this with a bit of an upper hand.”

Kim’s people are starving. His country is bankrupt. He has lost the backing of China. Why does that give him the upper hand?

Another Obama-era official Sam Vinograd said this:

Obama-era National Security Council member Sam Vinograd suffered the biggest meltdown, whining that they “would spend months preparing for the most basic meetings that President Obama used to have.” Therefore, she claimed “[t]here is no way that President Trump can be ready by May to have a high-stakes negotiation on denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula.”

“It’s just impossible....You can't wing it. Kim Jong-un is going to be fully prepared. I think that he's playing to the President's ego and the President’s weaknesses by flattering him...If President Trump does meet with Kim Jong-un, he's going to be going in unprepared and he’s going to be giving to Kim what Kim wants, which is positive photo op,” she added.

All of a sudden, the pathetic fool running North Korea is the world's greatest negotiator. All that’s missing now is Ben Rhodes. Considering that this crack negotiating team succeeded in funding Iranian terrorism and giving Iran a glide path to nuclear weapons, they should show some modicum of dignity and shut the fuck up.


Ares Olympus said...
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Ares Olympus said...

Certainly lots of opinions. But at best I predict the negotiation would be Kim saying "I'll keep my nuclear weapons and keep developing them until I can threaten any one on earth who threatens me, BUT I'll only use them if my country is invaded, so you can feel safe, as long as you don't do that." And Trump could say "Yes, I understand, you're right, we have the power to wipe you off the map, so its totally fair that you should at least be able to kill a few million of our people as well. Just remember South Korea is our ally so if you stay off their lawn then everything should be good."

Jack Fisher said...

in some limited ways, Kim is a very skilled negotiator. it's easy to draw a simplistic picture of him as all-powerful, but this is wrong. like all dictators, Kim stays in power because he has the support of a few critical groups: the Chinese foreign ministry, the army and the security apparatus, helped by family connections. Note that while the korean groups are important, the individuals are interchangeable. So if you're Nork general Ping, loyalty to Kim buys the army a big budget, a comfortable lifestyle, and your continued life, because col. Pong is ready to take your place.

I think China wants regional stability and a Nork buffer from S. Korea and the US. Kim knows that Chinese patience is limited and the threat to him personally is real. If Nork collapses into chaos, Kim's head is on the block.

While stating the obvious is politically impossible, the US realistically assesses Kim's nuke threat as just hot air. Kim is a man with a six shooter facing many machine guns and in the politics of the Cold War Kim's not holding any kind of a hand. Kim's use of a single nuke will result in the loss of the most important thing to him: his life. If anything he is a survivor.

Anonymous said...

AO, do you have any idea what you’re talking about?

The Kims produce large quantities of counterfeit U.S. currency, conduct cyber-attacks and sell nuclear capabilities. That’s for starters.

They use these exports to get CASH so they can operate their Stalinist extortion regime.

Trump is the only U.S, President in decades to have taken the North Korea threat seriously.

The negotiations will be short and to the point. It’s not just “Stay off South Korea’s lawn,” it’s “Keep running a shithole hermit kingdom if you want, but know our jurisdiction begins outside your borders. Don’t stray far. I don’t want a continuing resolution, I want results.”

Nobody is threatening the Kims. They are paranoid because they are running an organized crime state, and that is a high-stakes game. Our past presidents have trained the Kims to believe that threatening us and our allies will get them what they want: the cash they need to survive another year. Not anymore.

Whether that message is delivered by an aircraft carrier or face-to-face is irrelevant. Trump is right: there is only one language they understand.

James said...

Jack pretty well sums it up. I will say if you draw circle with a 600mile radius (which) I believe is Kim's deliverable nuke range now) it encompasses a lot. The majority of China's sea harbors, Beijing, maybe Shanghai, Tokyo, and of course Seoul. This leads me to believe that Kim's real audience during testing was not the US. I think the Trump/Kim will be in Beijing.

James said...

Doing this by phone sucks.

Deana said...

Spot on Mr. Schneiderman.

Ares Olympus said...

I saw this interview being shared, starting with a quote from his book that said he'd be willing to launch a preemptive strike against North Korea (Russert assumed that meant nuclear, and Trump seemed to deny he meant a nuclear attack), but he did say "The biggest problem this world has is nuclear proliferation." Donald Trump - Meet the Press October 24, 1999 with Tim Russert, North Korea 8:19 On the most important issue facing our country: 19:42 Answer:"Nuclear proliferation"

Trump certainly comes across as more thoughtful in 1999, less a circus entertainer. Let's hope some of that mental sharpness is still with him.

Jack Fisher said...

"more thoughtful ... less a circus entertainer."

Something for you to aspire to.

Sam L. said...

The Left FEARS the possibility that Trump will actually DO what Clinton and Obama claimed they wanted to do, and that they will be shown up as the poseurs they are.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Sam L. @March 9, 2018 at 10:27 AM:

... and Bush 41 and Clinton and Bush 43.

Our “diplomacy” with, and “containment” of North Korea have always been a joke.

Biggest game of kick-the-can ever. Disgusting, really.

And we pay thousands of clowns at Foggy Bottom and abroad for what?

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

I find it most curious that Lefties are much more concerned with domestic enemies than international enemies.

Thes disproportionate concern deserves consideration.