North Korean leader Kim Jong Un hasn’t given up a single nuclear weapon, but that didn’t stop U.S. President Donald Trump from reassuring Americans on Twitter that they should “sleep well” because the nuclear threat from Pyongyang is over.
Before taking office people were assuming that we were going to War with North Korea. President Obama said that North Korea was our biggest and most dangerous problem. No longer – sleep well tonight!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 13, 2018
That public strategy is leading some analysts to believe Trump might be willing to live with a nuclear armed North Korea just as the U.S. has learned to live with other nuclear nations, like Pakistan and India.
Despite tough U.S. talk before the summit about “complete” and “verifiable” denuclearization, the vaguely worded 1 1/2-page document Trump and Kim signed doesn’t include that language and essentially represents “tacit approval” of North Korea’s nuclear program, said Jeffery Lewis, director of the East Asia Non-Proliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute for International Studies in Monterey, California.
“I don’t think it would be the end of the world, because it’s the world we already live in,” he said. “My worry is that the president keeps promising that Kim will give up his weapons. If he suddenly wakes up one day and realizes what’s really going on, he could just explode, and then we’re in real trouble.”
Even the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a Washington-based policy research group normally supportive of Trump’s foreign policy, signaled its reservations.
“It is difficult to evaluate whether Trump and Kim’s joint statement is a small step toward” verifiable denuclearization or is, instead, “a sign that the Trump administration will accept other outcomes.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo angrily dismissed those concerns, saying that the language used in the agreement encompassed U.S. demands, even though they weren’t spelled out, and predicting that significant progress on denuclearization will be made by 2021.
“I suppose we could argue semantics, but let me assure you it’s in the document,” Pompeo told reporters Wednesday in Seoul.
The mercurial Trump could also quickly shift his approach if he determines sufficient progress isn’t being made. Less than a year before their historic summit, Trump was threatening “fire and fury” on North Korea and publicly deriding Kim as “Little Rocket Man.”
At their historic summit, Kim made few concessions beyond agreeing to “complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula” — a term his regime and the U.S. can’t agree on a definition for. The agreement provided no timetable for giving up as many as 60 nuclear bombs and a range of missiles, including some that he says can strike the American homeland.
Pompeo said he’ll be hammering out details of the accord in the coming weeks with North Korean counterparts. But Pyongyang appears to be betting on the model of “build it first” and then letting a long process of fruitless talks drag on later. The country has already staved off a quarter-century of efforts to get it to halt nuclear development, and the …read more