While Trump was quick to take a victory lap after signing a non-binding letter (of intent) with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un to implement the dunclearization of North Korea, several questions have emerged among which:
- the lack of deal enforcement
- the lack of verifiability of N.Korea’s denuclearization efforts as part of the “Complete, Verifiable, Irreversible Denuclearization” or CVID protocol
- the legitimization of North Korea’s regime
- China’s role in the process
- the end of joint military drills with South Korea.
While Trump’s response to most critics was that the process is just starting and that it will take time to denuclearize, where Trump will see the greatest amount of pushback is on the last bullet point. Speaking in an interview with George Stephanopoulos shortly after the one-on-one with Kim, when asked if there was talk of pulling U.S. troops out of South Korea, Trump said the topic didn’t come up, however he said the following:
“We didn’t discuss that, no. We’re not going to play the war games… I thought they were very provocative. I also they’re also very expensive.”
In his press conference after the summit, Trump repeated the US desire to halt joint war games with South Korea, and that Pyongyang agreed to destroy a “major” missile testing site.
Pressed on what the United States gets in exchange for halting the military exercises, Trump said “we haven’t given up anything.”
This is where Trump will get much pushback because in its commentary on Trump and Kim, Beijing said that this is “precisely that goal that China had always sought and worked hard for, and that as part of the final agreement, China also includes withdrawal of US troops from the Korean Peninsula, elimination of US-ROK military exercises, and dismantlement of US-ROK joint missile defense systems.
China also includes withdrawal of US troops from the Korean Peninsula, elimination of US-ROK military exercises, and dismantlement of US-ROK joint missile defense systems.
China on Trump and Kim… pic.twitter.com/8gQqlqNoDQ
— Stephen McDonell (@StephenMcDonell) June 12, 2018
In other words, one could frame the summit as a victory for China which will soon see US presence in South Korea depart gradually.
Trump’s take is that he knows “for a fact” that Kim is going to “start a process” when returns home that will “make a lot of people very happy and very safe.”
And finally, there was another question mark: Trump and Kim capped off their summit Singapore by signing a statement committing the United States to unspecified “security guarantees” for Pyongyang in exchange for a denuclearized Korean peninsula.
“President Trump committed to provide security guarantees to [North Korea], and Chairman Kim Jong Un reaffirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to the complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula,” the statement said.
It remains unclear what these “guarantees” are.
Going back to the Stephanopoulos interview, the ABC anchor asked how Trump could trust the brutal dictator.
“I do trust him,” Trump said. “Maybe in a year you’ll be interviewing and I’ll say I made a mistake. It’s possible. We’re dealing at a high level, a lot of things can change a lot of things are possible.”
He pressed the president on his previous criticism of North Korea’s human rights abuses including starving his people, running labor camps and assassinating members of his own family.
“George, I’m given what I’m given,” Trump said. “This is what we have, this is where we are, and I can only tell you from my experience, and I’ve met him, I’ve spoken with him. I’ve met him. And this is, this has started early and it’s been very intense. I think that he really wants to do a great job for North Korea. I think he wants to de-nuke, without that, there’s nothing to discuss. It was on the table from the beginning, and you see a total denuclearization of North Korea – so important.
Trump added that he believes the North Korean leader “wants to do the right thing”.
“Now, what it is I can’t talk about – it doesn’t matter,” Trump said. “We’re starting from scratch. We’re starting right now, and we have to get rid of those nuclear weapons.”
“We have the framework for getting ready to denuclearize,” Trump said.
“He’s de-nuking the whole place. I think he’s going to start now. “Over my lifetime I’ve done a lot of deals with a lot of people and sometimes the people you most distrust turn out to be the most honorable ones and the people that you do trust turn out to be not the honorable ones,” Trump said.
“I believe he wants to get it done.”
It remains to be seen if the biggest “deal” of Trump’s lifetime will also be his biggest blunder.
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