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Trump doesn’t care about North Korea nukes while relations are good

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Kim Jong Un and Moon Jae-in
South
Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un
at a welcome ceremony in Pyongyang.

Reuters/Pyeongyang Press Corps

  • President Donald Trump is cheerleading a new inter-Korean
    summit despite meager progress on denuclearizing North Korea.
  • Trump seems not to care about North Korea’s nukes — and as
    long as they’re not pointed at the US, most in the US probably
    don’t either.
  • Trump can make history by presiding over the end of the
    Korean War and removing the threat of nuclear war with North
    Korea.
  • But in the long run, the US would pay a steep price if it
    acquiesced to Kim’s way of doing things now. 

President Donald Trump has routinely praised, and even
cheer-leaded, diplomatic efforts towards North Korea. But his
enthusiasm comes despite making essentially zero progress towards
his own stated goal — denuclearization.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon
Jae-in just concluded three days together north of the
demilitarized border that’s separated the country for 70 years.

The pair hugged, shook hands, went sight-seeing, and posed for
photographs in what must go down as a public relations blitz for
the North Korean dictator. 

The Korean leaders declared a reduction in military forces at
their mutual border, some economic cooperation projects, and a
“new era” in inter-Korean relations. But the summit had another
purpose, which was convincing the US to continue with diplomacy,
which had stalled due to North Korea’s refusal to make concrete
steps towards disarmament. For Kim, the move worked
beautifully. 

When Kim said he’d take some steps towards denuclearization, US
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, as well as Trump, latched on to
these and inflated their importance in messages to the US
public. 

Kim agreed to close a missile testing site and some ambiguous
parts of a nuclear research center in front of unspecified
international observers, but only if the US follows through on
the joint declaration Trump signed with Kim in Singapore in
June. 

“Very exciting!” Trump tweeted after the agreement. If North
Korea’s plan was to offer limited steps towards denuclearization
to get the US back on board with talks, it absolutely worked.
Pompeo said the US would “engage immediately” with North
Korea following what it framed as a breakthrough.

The fact is that Trump, Moon, and Kim, have all walked down a
diplomatic path for months now without any real progress on
dismantling nukes, and none of them seem to care. In the
meantime, the Korean Peninsula has become a more peaceful place,
and the US public no longer worries about nuclear war.

Get real


north korea parade hwasong 15
A
North Korean Hwasong-15 ICBM on parade in
Pyongyang.

KCTV

If North Korea wanted to denuclearize, it could do so simply and
relatively quickly. But it has refused even the most basic steps
despite continuous pressure from the Trump administration.

The US repeatedly has asked North Korea for an inventory of its
nuclear arsenal, and has repeatedly been denied. Instead, North
Korea likes choreographed media events where it destroys some
non-essential components of its nuclear infrastructure. 

“I’m not seeing any action” towards real denuclearization, Yun
Sun, a North Korea expert at the Stimson Center think tank told
Business Insider. 

Trump keeps getting rebuffed in his attempts to get real results
and action out of North Korea, all the while praising what he
sees as progress.

In fact, Trump seems to not care about denuclearization as much
as he cares about his relationship with Kim. Following the
Singapore summit, Trump repeatedly stressed that he thinks North
Korea will denuclearize because he considers Kim a trustworthy
guy.

Sun told Business Insider: “Denuclearization has been the top
priority for the US and no president can ignore that issue and
embrace a North Korea that is not on the same path to
denuclearization.”

But North Korea isn’t just a nuclear arsenal, it’s a country of
25 million people, and any diplomacy must be broader than the
narrow issue of whether or not the country has nukes, said Sun.

“I don’t think the president cares as much about
denuclearization,” said Sun. “He wants a diplomatic victory. He
wants to be the US president that ended the Korean war.”

Arms control experts hate him


North Korea
Donald Trump and Kim Jong
Un at their summit in Singapore this summer.

Kevin Lim/THE STRAITS TIMES/Handout/Getty
Images


Measured on the extent to which North Korea has parted with its
nukes, Trump has absolutely and tremendously failed in his
diplomatic efforts.

But does the US public care if North Korea has nuclear weapons,
as long as they’re not pointed at the US?

Trump has, undoubtedly, ushered in an era of warmed relations and
eased tensions with North Korea. The threat of nuclear war,
despite the presence of nuclear weapons, has receded dramatically
under Trump.

For the US voting public, not the tiny crowd of arms control
experts whose constant policy recommendations and doomsday
predictions go routinely unheeded, the North Korean threat has
ceased and relative peace has set in.

The US stands to lose significant traction in Asia in the coming
decades if Trump allows the Korean war to end,
thereby “undermining the legality and legitimacy of the
[US-South Korean] alliance,” said Sun.

But that’s a problem for another day. For now, Trump is winning
North Korean diplomacy on smiles alone.

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