The very special bond

Nicholas Kristof doesn’t quite agree with Trump’s take on the hangout with Kim.

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.

Funny how the genius deal-maker is so excited about a mere statement. Kim said something and wham, miraculous solution achieved. Trump knows Kim means it how exactly? How is it different from the Iran deal that he abruptly pulled us out of? These are difficult questions.

The most remarkable aspect of the joint statement was what it didn’t contain. There was nothing about North Korea freezing plutonium and uranium programs, nothing about destroying intercontinental ballistic missiles, nothing about allowing inspectors to return to nuclear sites, nothing about North Korea making a full declaration of its nuclear program, nothing about a timetable, nothing about verification, not even any clear pledge to permanently halt testing of nuclear weapons or long-range missiles.

Kim seems to have completely out-negotiated Trump, and it’s scary that Trump doesn’t seem to realize this.

Scary and a great strain on the organ of credulity.

In 1994 there was a deal to freeze North Korea’s plutonium program, complete with a strict monitoring system; nothing like that here – just “he promised.”

There was also something frankly weird about an American president savaging Canada’s prime minister one day and then embracing the leader of the most totalitarian country in the world.

…the next. Yes, there was.

“He’s a very talented man,” Trump said of Kim. “I also learned that he loves his country very much.”

In an interview with Voice of America, Trump said “I like him” and added: “He’s smart, loves his people, he loves his country.”

Oh god. Baby Idiot strikes again.

He mumbled something about human rights but then quickly mumbled something about human rights in other places too so shut up.

Incredibly, Trump told Voice of America that he had this message for the North Korean people: “I think you have somebody that has a great feeling for them. He wants to do right by them and we got along really well.”

Glorious genius diplomat! Thank god he didn’t prepare, so that he could come out with sapience like that!

My guess is that Kim flattered Trump, as Moon has, and that Trump simply didn’t realize how little he was getting. On my most recent visit to North Korea, officials were asking me subtle questions about the differences in views of Mike Pompeo and Nikki Haley; meanwhile, Trump said he didn’t need to do much homework.

Whatever our politics, we should all want Trump to succeed in reducing tensions on the Korean Peninsula, and it’s good to see that Trump now supports engagement rather than military options. There will be further negotiations, and these may actually freeze plutonium production and destroy missiles. But at least in the first round, Trump seems to have been snookered.

But he’ll never grasp that, so whatever.

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