The spectacle of the murderous dictator Kim Jong Un on equal footing with the president of the United States — each country’s flag represented, a supposedly “normal” diplomatic exchange between two nuclear powers — was enough to turn democracy lovers’ stomachs. President Trump naturally made things worse. He gushed: “It’s my honor, and we will have a terrific relationship, I have no doubt.”
An honor to meet the man who maintains slave labor camps, who periodically attacks the ships of our ally South Korea and whose regime is responsible for the death of Otto Warmbier? That should stun Warmbier’s parents — and every decent human being. Trump envisions a “terrific” relationship with a country that conducts mass hacking, is arguably the worst human rights violator, threatens us with nuclear weapons, detains our people and seeks the reunification of the Korean peninsula under its rule of terror. Imagine if President Barack Obama traveled to Iran, shook Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s hand, proclaimed it was a great honor and spoke about his conviction that Iran and the United States would have a terrific relationship. John Bolton and Mike Pompeo, among others, would have had a conniption.
Trump’s impulsive decision to have a summit and his insatiable need for attention provided Kim with a historic victory that no other U.S. president has handed to a North Korean leader. With not a single bomb dismantled or a single gram of fissile material shipped out of the country, Kim got more than he could have dreamed of — and all before the photographers departed.
It went downhill from there. The Post reports:
Trump sounded triumphant following his meeting with Kim, expressing confidence that the North Korean leader was serious about abandoning his nuclear program and transforming his country from an isolated rogue regime into a respected member of the world community.
But Trump provided few specifics about what steps Kim would take to back up his promise to denuclearize his country and how the United States would verify that North Korea was keeping its pledge to get rid of its nuclear weapons, saying that would be worked out in future talks.
This is what happens when one puts a man-child who imagines that characters such as Kim or Chinese President Xi Jinping are his “friends” or “like him” in a room alone with one of them. Giving Kim a major concession such as discontinuance of the “war games” plainly took Seoul by surprise:
The United States has conducted such exercises for decades as a symbol of unity with Seoul and previously rejected North Korean complaints as illegitimate. Ending the games would be a significant political benefit for Kim, but Trump insisted he had not given up leverage.
“I think the meeting was every bit as good for the United States as it was for North Korea,” Trump said, casting himself as a leader who can secure a deal that has eluded past presidents.
South Korea’s presidential office seemed blindsided by the announcement on the joint exercises.
“We need to try to understand what President Trump said,” a spokesman for South Korean President Moon Jae-in said.
Trump swore that he would not repeat the errors of the past. U.S. presidents got worthless agreements in 1994 when “Pyongyang committed to freezing its illicit plutonium weapons program in exchange for aid” and again in 2005 when North Korea “pledged to abandon ‘all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs’ and return to the Non-Proliferation Treaty.” The bland statement that Trump obtained seemed almost identical to these past, useless agreements with vows to undertake “complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula” and commit to a “lasting and stable peace.” That sounds like the same pablum we’ve gotten before. The difference here is that Trump removed North Korea’s stigma as a pariah state, and for good measure, decided to discontinue joint war games with Seoul, which are an “irritant” to the North Koreans. That’s it.
In remarks afterward, Trump insisted that Kim “loves his people,” a ludicrous statement that sounds like something Pyongyang’s propaganda shop issued. Kim is a brutal tyrant who imprisons, starves and represses his own people. Trump then said something remarkably honest: “I may be wrong, I mean I may stand before you in six months and say, ‘Hey I was wrong,'” said Trump. He continued,”I don’t know that I’ll ever admit that, but I’ll find some kind of an excuse.” That’s right: He will.
The president of the United States was fleeced, and worse, has no doubt impressed upon Kim that this country can be played for fools and strung along. Trump gave Kim newfound legitimacy and Kim’s nuclear weapons program can go on and on.
In all of this, Pompeo, Trump’s secretary of state, bears a good deal of the responsibility for excessive happy talk. He apparently was led along as well, resulting in the decision to put Trump in the room with Kim. Pompeo has insisted that this would not be a repeat of past errors. He’s right on that. This is much, much worse. National security adviser Bolton, who tried his best to disrupt the meeting, can feel some measure of satisfaction. Having seen his advice spurned and the disastrous results that followed, he might consider quitting. He would be a powerful, independent voice to explain the peril in which we now find ourselves with a president who alienates allies and gives tyrants around the globe reason to celebrate.