TODAY:

Trust, but verify... maybe?


In the Trump-Kim summit, there was a disconnect: Trump measures success in dollars. Kim measures it in continued family control of his country.


At the end of the U.S. – North Korea summit, President Trump declared that he trusts Kim Jong Un and Kim trusts him and that the nuclear threat from the North is gone. On the other side, Kim’s aides were checking out the pen he was given to sign the joint communique with to check it for any signs of danger to their leader.

Such are the results of the summit. Such is the level of trust on both sides.

It seems our negotiator-in-chief isn’t so much.

While it’s better to be talking to your adversaries than shouting at them, and Trump deserves some credit for taking that risk, the consensus among North Korea experts is the U.S. got nothing in the joint communique and Kim Jong Un got plenty.


That may be because their expectations were widely different:

While both wanted world recognition that they are real leaders, Kim vaulted to that class simply by having his picture taken with Trump. Trump should have known he had that stature, well, before he was sworn in anyway.

Trump thinks everyone’s motivation is money, getting as much of it as they can; Kim isn’t driven by money, he’s driven by power. His family has had it for 70 years and he doesn’t want to give it up.


There is the disconnect: Trump measures success in dollars. Kim measures it in continued family control of his country.

Trump’s philosophy can be seen in the shlocky video he had produced for Kim.

It’s a campaign style piece with a campaign style baritone narrator. Its main message seems to be: “You want to be rich, Kim, make a deal with me and you’ll have your own real estate fortune. We are the world’s greatest leaders after all.”

Okay, that last line is gratuitous. But not too much.

Trump gave Kim a commitment to end the “war games” the U.S. and South Korea have been performing for years both as a show of strength to the North and, more importantly, as former Defense Secretary William Cohen explained this week, to establish a “perimeter” to protect our homeland as far from our homeland as possible.

That’s a huge win for Kim.


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And not only did he get that win, he got Trump to say the training sessions were a “provocation” – a word our adversaries in the Pacific Rim has been using for years. Now the President of the United States has used it. And, it will come back to bite us.

The setting for the First Handshake also was a win for Kim, in front of an equal number of equally sized flags from each country, demonstrating that North Korea is on the same level as the U.S. Too esoteric? Maybe so, but when that picture was shown in North Korea among the only constituency Kim cares about, how do you think it played? It reinforced what he’s been lying to his people about – that he is a world leader. “See, there I am with the Leader of the Free World.”



Embed from Getty Images


In return Kim gave Trump... nothing.

Even the promises Kim made were watered down from what North Korea has agreed to in the past, and reneged on.

Then again, who’s to say Trump won’t also renege? Both men have a tendency to over-promise and under deliver.


A few hours after the summit ended, it was reported that North Korea’s state media (the only media there) said that Trump promised to end the sanctions while at the summit. Trump could have said something like that in a private meeting but I doubt he did. He sure said nothing like that in public. Still, that’s now what the North Korean people are being told. Again, it reinforces what Kim has been telling them since he took power and now the President of the United States has caved to us on sanctions. This is what state media do for a despot, similar to the way Trump wishes the media were here.

Now, when Kim points a finger at the evil-and-they-want-to-invade-us America, his people will have the added “knowledge” that the sanctions were promised to be lifted, and they were not. More power for Kim.

The truly important thing is what happens next? If Trump allows this negotiation to become about limiting North Korea’s capabilities rather than eliminating them, he will fall into the same trap he castigated President Obama for in Iran.

This is complicated business. Complicated more when one participant can tell his people whatever he wants, whatever he sees as the truth and the other, well, the other does the same thing.


Ronald Reagan famously dealt with the Soviet Union and got promises from them. Did he return home and say he trusted Mikhail Gorbachev the way Trump is talking about Kim?

“I trust him,” Trump said.

Reagan said Доверяй, но проверяй. Trust but verify.

Trump should look at this the same way, but in Korean: 신뢰하지만 확인.

Kim clearly showed he doesn’t trust Trump. Otherwise that pen would not have needed to be inspected. But it was.



And before Trump declares we have no more fear of a nuclear threat from North Korea, we should inspect that, too.🔷


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(This piece was originally published on The Screaming Moderate.)


(Cover: Flickr/Dan Scavino Jr. - Kim and Trump shaking hands at the red carpet during the DPRK–USA Singapore Summit - 12 June 2018.)


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Former deputy White House press secretary to Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Also headed communications offices at the RNC, U.S. Department of Commerce, and Yale University. Former reporter.
Marion, MA, USA. Website

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