Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un just completed the first ever meeting between a sitting U.S. president and a leader from North Korea and to Trump’s (and mostly to South Korean President Moon‘s) credit, they pulled off a first-of-its-kind summit.
But after the world had a chance to get past the spectacle, and look at the substance, it was a major bust.
The end of the summit culminated in a document signed by Trump and Un that promises a lot, and isn’t clear on how.
For example the agreement does not elaborate on what steps North Korea will take to denuclearize, no new commitments, no timetables, no definitions, all very important items for an international agreement. There were no real breakthroughs other than two leaders shaking hands.
This was the most bare-minimum statements our two countries could hope for, and right-wing news is already promoting it as the biggest event in human history.
The reality is the only actual positive good for world peace the agreement commits to is holding further negotiations led by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and a “relevant” North Korean official at “the earliest date possible.”
More diplomacy is always better than no diplomacy, but make no mistake what happened in Singapore was nothing but a photo op, as Fox News would say, between two dictators.
While Fox News made a slip of the tongue, we’re not. Trump has clear authoritarian tendencies that were on full display on foreign soil, such as:
All of Trump’s actions and behavior, especially after leaving a contentious G7 meeting, push us farther away from our democratic Western allies and closer to autocratic rules, like Un, Sisi, Duterte, Putin, Jinping, and Erdogan.
And as a sign of our newly found friendship with foreign dictators, Trump really went out of his way for appeasement and to make a good impression by not pushing hard on any of his stated goals, while giving up major concessions.
What North Korea Got
Agreed to “denuclearization of the entire Korean Peninsula,” this is language favored by North Korea for more than a quarter century.
Got America to agree to no demands for “verifiable” or “irreversible” denuclearization. A break from CVID (complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization) agreements in the past, such as the Iran deal that Trump ripped up for being “too weak.”
An end to “inappropriate” and “provocative” U.S.-South Korea military exercises before North Korean denuclearization.
The draw-down of U.S. troops in South Korea before North Korean denuclearization.
A vague promise about the U.S. providing personal security for the dictator Kim Jong Un. (See: Muammar Gaddafi after he gave up his nukes.)
Recognition on the world stage, something the Uns have desperately wanted since Kim’s grandfather.
A U.S. crafted North Korea propaganda video for their state television.
What America Got
The recovery of remains of Americans lost or killed during the Korean War.
No iron-clad denuclearization that Trump promised.
No peace treaty that Trump promised. (Remember calls for the Nobel Prize?)
No mention of human-rights abuses.
No mention of sanctions.
No mention of long-range missiles.
No time frame.
Future talks at some future date, but to truly understand just how little we walked away with, we’ll need a little context.
North Korea’s Track Record on Denuclearization
In 1985 North Korea signed the 1968 Nuclear non-Proliferation Treaty, they broke it.
In 1992 North and South Korea signed a joint agreement of denuclearization, to not “test, manufacture, produce, receive, possess, store, deploy or use nuclear weapons.’’ North Korea broke this agreement and since done all but use them on an adversary.
Also in 1992, North Korea signed a deal with the International Atomic Energy Agency to accept inspectors and safeguards. They broke it.
In 1993, North Korea entered into bilateral talks with the United States, and promised to abandon the “threat and use of force, including nuclear weapons.”
In 1994, North Korea accepted the U.S.-DPRK Agreed Framework/Six-Party Talks, under which Pyongyang offered to freeze its plutonium producing reactors and “eventually” dismantle them. They broke it.
In 2000, North Korea released a U.S.-DPRK joint communique in 2000 pledging a freeze of work on long-range missiles “of all kinds.” They broke it.
In 2005, North Korea agreed to six-party talks and to the “verifiable denuclearization of the Korean peninsula in a peaceful manner.” A year later they detonated their first nuclear bomb.
In 2007, North Korea agreed to normalizing relations and to an Action Plan to “shut down and seal” the plutonium-producing reactors at Yongbyon, with a view to its “eventual abandonment.” They didn’t.
Later in 2007, North Korea entered into a second round of implementation plans with the U.S., pledging to “disable” all of its nuclear facilities, again with a view to later “abandonment.” They now have a nuclear weapon they can put on a missile that can hit America.
Why we got screwed
Donald Trump fashions himself this great deal-maker, but by almost any count we came away with nothing concrete on the side of North Korea and gave them concession after concession after concession.
Of course the recovery of American remains is important, especially to the families of our fallen, which we’ll be sure to see plastered all over Fox News for a few weeks to boost Trump’s historically low approval ratings.
But at the end of the day if Kim Jong Un still has nukes that can hit Denver, we’re not checking his promises, we’re not interested in inspecting his facilities, we’re asking for North Korea to be honest and just volunteer how much nuclear material they have, and there are less U.S. troops stationed in the Korean DMZ and we’re no longer coordinating with our allies in the region, these are all dangerous recipes for future families asking for the remains of their brothers and sisters, sons and daughters.
At least Trump got a nice photo op.