BRANDON J. WEICHERT | THE WEICHERT REPORT
No matter what happens between American President Donald J. Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, the very fact that Trump met with Kim not as the leader of a quantitatively (and qualitatively) superior country, but as an equal, was actually a good thing for him. The president met Kim with his hand extended outward.
Kim appears to have thus far taken it. As the president has stated, whether peace reigns or not is entirely up to Kim Jong-un.
Whatever happens going forward, President Trump has already arrayed a majority of world opinion behind the American position. In other words, should these talks collapse–as many predict they will (and, to be sure, history tells us they likely will, though we should all remain hopeful that history changes henceforth)–it is likely that the United States will correctly not be viewed as the reason for the collapse.
Trump has overcome the inertia that pervades America’s sclerotic foreign policy establishment (“the blob,” as former White House depute national security adviser Ben Rhodes labeled it); he has defied expectations over how the meeting will go (thus far) as well as the expectations that he would start a nuclear war; and Trump has proven that he is capable of dealing openly and fairly with once-implacable rivals.
For his part, the North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-un, has proven willing to make a modest show of meeting in good faith (though his refusal to pay for his own hotel was a bit of a nuisance heading into the summit).
This is important. It indicates that Kim is trying to navigate between North Korea’s manic ideology of Juche, that he is also trying to maintain his posture as being in opposition to Western “imperialism”, and that he is still willing to act reasonably in exchange for a real deal.
However, if the United States and North Korea cannot make a deal, President Trump has assured the world that he will return to his previous footing of “maximum pressure” against North Korea. He has vowed to slap on an additional 300 sanctions (on top of the already-onerous sanctions presently in place against the North Korean regime).
In addition, it is likely that the president would deploy many more U.S. forces into the region on top of those that are already operating there–much to the chagrin of Pyongyang.
Toward that end, it is necessary to remind audiences that which Donald Trump has said regarding North Korea going back to the year 2000. At that time, the early formulations of Trump’s current policy toward North Korea were in full view.
Not only did Donald Trump over the years make the claim that he would meet with the leadership of North Korea attempt to make a deal between Pyongyang and Washington, but, if he could not entice the North Koreans to make a deal, then he would “bomb a single target in North Korea” until he compelled them to deal with the West.
Make no mistake: that is where we are headed, if these talks fail.
Military experts, such as the United States Secretary of Defense James Mattis, have long argued that any military conflict on the Korean peninsula would eventuate in a major bloodbath.
Yes, the United States would likely win such an engagement, but the loss of life and destabilization of the region would be drastic. This is to say nothing of the financial cost of yet another major war–and the immense strain that our already overstretched armed forces would endure.
Trump assumes that his maximum pressure campaign has effectively brought Kim to the table and the mere threat of the continuation of that campaign will force North Korea to remain pliant to American demands. It remains to be seen if that is the case.
Again, I am truly hopeful that it is. If things go the other way, the world can expect a rapid ascent up what Herman Kahn referred to as the “escalation ladder.”
Either way, it appears that President Trump is unwilling to countenance a North Korea possessing nuclear arms. Angelo Codevilla has expressed skepticism (as have I) that this can be avoided–even under the best circumstances.
However, given Trump’s recent stern behavior toward America’s so-called allies at the G-7 over trade, it is obvious that the president will live up to his two decades-worth of rhetoric surrounding North Korea: either they act responsibly, or he will end that regime.
And, make no mistake, irrespective of how deadly the next Korean War will be–and it will most definitely be–Trump will commit us to fighting (and certainly winning) it, if need be.
Beijing and Moscow Only Win By Forcing Pyongyang to Deal
Going forward, Kim Jong-un and his allies in Moscow and Beijing must understand that either abandoning the talks with the United States outright, or dragging things along needlessly for the next 18 months (until they have a fully functional nuclear weapons arsenal), will end in the ultimate destruction of North Korea–and the devastation of northern Asia.
The talks have solidified Trump’s image as a leader willing to stick his proverbial neck out to meet in good faith with Kim Jong-un. Should the talks collapse–barring some over-the-top Twitter meltdown from the president–a majority of the world (and certainly history would remember) that Trump acted to prevent war and his counterpart in Pyongyang ultimately chose conflict.
There is no way for Kim to win any other course of action aside from negotiating in good faith; adhering to Trump’s demands for de-nuclearization; and accept Trump’s offer of economic and political assistance.
To my readers in China and Russia: continuing to suborn North Korea’s nuclear mania–especially in light of the good faith that the United States has shown in Singapore–will not only eventuate in a loss of prestige for you, but it will also put you on the losing side of a major geopolitical shift.
It would be best to continue applying as much pressure as possible on North Korea to continue the negotiations in earnest, and utterly de-nuclearize. Otherwise, the United States will make war upon the North, and there will be an even greater, long-term presence on the Korean Peninsula–only this time that presence will be stationed just across from the Yalu River.
Give peace a chance and let us hope that North Korea does the right thing. Whatever your opinion is of Trump, thus far, he has been doing the right thing–not just for the United States, but for the world–when it comes to North Korea.