The U.S./North Korea summit seems to have resulted in two general analysis camps: the Trump-gave-away-for-much-for-too-little camp; and the it’s-an-important-diplomatic-start camp.
Since world peace may depend on these talks, let’s try to get a quick perspective on the two perspectives.
We’re on the path to denuclearization of North Korea.
The North Korean dictator wanted the prestige of having met with a U.S. president, and no previous president was willing to do this.
Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama refused to meet face to face with North Korea’s leaders (either Kim Jong Un or his father, Kim Jong Il, who ruled until his death in 2011). Bill Clinton met Kim Jong Il in 2009 after Clinton had left office.
But, maybe North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities couldn’t be ignored much longer.
diplomacy, not war
There is no doubt that the world is safer as a result of two men talking rather than fighting over twitter or fighting in the Korean peninsula.
promise of complete denuclearization
In the agreement signed at the summit, North Korea promises to “work toward the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
With North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities, the U.S. was running out of options for how to move forward. Destroying weapons, putting inspections into place, preventing future development—these are most-important goals of the meeting and for the future.
The summit showed little progress toward denuclearization and too much was given away by our president.
past presidents refuse the dictator’s request
Presidents Bush, Obama and Clinton could have met with Kim Jong Un and Kim Jong Il (father of current leader) but refused to do so.
“North Korea has been seeking a summit with an American president for more than twenty years,” Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at Middlebury Institute of International studies tweeted Thursday night. “It has literally been a top foreign policy goal of Pyongyang since Kim Jong Il invited Bill Clinton.”
Clinton sent Secretary of State Madeleine Albright for a meeting in 2000.
“I held two days of intensive talks, during which [Kim Jong Il] appeared willing to accept more significant restraints on the missile programs than we had expected,” Albright said. “Obviously, if this dilemma were easy to resolve, it would have been settled long ago. The fundamental problem is that the North Korean leadership is convinced it requires nuclear weapons to guarantee its own survival.”
George W. Bush
Bush stopped the negotiations that began under Clinton and Albright and called North Korea an “axis of evil” in 2002. In 2006, North Korea tested its first nuclear device.
Obama didn’t believe that Kim Jong Un would meet his preconditions for a meeting, or even that he seriously intended to give up his nuclear weapons.
“This is the same kind of pattern that we saw his father engage in and his grandfather before that,” Obama said in 2013. “Since I came into office, the one thing I was clear about was, we’re not going to reward this kind of provocative behavior. You don’t get to bang your spoon on the table and somehow you get your way.”
propaganda win for Kim
“To be clear — we need to talk to North Korea,” Lewis, East Asian expert, tweeted. “But Kim is not inviting Trump so that he can surrender North Korea’s weapons. Kim is inviting Trump to demonstrate that his investment in nuclear and missile capabilities has forced the United States to treat him as an equal.”
Kim Jong Un got a huge propaganda win by meeting with a U.S..
nukes for respect
The nuclear program brought North Korea respect. They got their meeting with a U.S. president, and all the prestige it brought.
Do you think Iran noticed? Note: Iran has been working toward the development of a nuclear weapons program.
human rights abuses ignored
North Korea is the most repressive country on earth.
Between 80,000 and 130,000 North Koreans are currently held as political prisoners by their own government, detained in brutal prisons where hundreds of thousands of Koreans have died.
Thomas Buergenthal, an international lawyer and Auschwitz survivor, prepared a report on these camps. “The conditions in the Korean prison camps are as terrible, or even worse,” he said, “than those I saw and experienced in my youth in these Nazi camps.”
Meanwhile, North Korea dumps money into its nuclear program and military, while people go hungry. UNICEF estimated in January that 60,000 children were on the brink of starvation.
military exercise is canceled
President Trump agreed to cancel military exercises in the region.
American troops have been in South Korea since the Korean War. Exercises are regularly conducted with the purpose of both reassuring South Korea that the U.S. will back them and keeping the military pressure on North Korea—just in case.
South Korea seemed unaware that the president might go this route.
we’ve had agreements to denuclearize in the past; none have been successful
North Korea has made similar promises to the previous three U.S. administrations and none have worked; all eventually fell apart because North Korea violated the agreements.
the 1992 Joint Declaration
North Korea violated the 1992 Joint Declaration, which stated that neither North nor South Korea shall “test, manufacture, produce, receive, possess, store, deploy or use nuclear weapons.”
The agreement fell apart over the protocol for inspections.
the Agreed Framework of 1994
The United States and North Korea signed the Agreed Framework, which stated that North Korea would stop the construction of nuclear reactors (intended for nuclear weapons) in exchange for two nuclear weapon-resistant nuclear power reactors and oil for fuel.
But U.S. intelligence found North Korea’s developing nuclear weapons, which was in violation of the agreement.
The deal was abandoned.
Interestingly, John Bolton, who was at the time the undersecretary of state for arms control and international security (and is currently Trump’s national security advisor), later wrote that “this was the hammer I had been looking for to shatter the Agreed Framework.”
the 2005 Six-Party Talks
The Six-Party Talks were a series of multilateral negotiations with China, Japan, North Korea, Russia, South Korea, and the United States for the purpose of denuclearizing North Korea.
In 2009, North Korea decided to no longer participate in the talks.