Contrary to the expectations of many Americans, especially those on the left, President Trump did not cave to the demands of the North Korean dictator as his three predecessors had done in their talks with Kim’s father, Kim Jong-il. Before Trump met with Kim Jong Un at the Vietnam Summit, he told the press he was looking for a “good” deal, rather than a “fast” deal. And he kept his word.
The mainstream media was poised to attack the President for accepting an inferior deal with Kim to give himself a political win and to distract people from the spectacle of the Michael Cohen hearings.
Former National Security Advisor Susan Rice, known best for appearing on four cable news shows the Sunday after the 2012 Benghazi attacks and falsely attributing the attacks to protests over an internet video as well as for her role in the unmasking of American citizens in the final days of the Obama administration, weighed in.
In a rush to generate good optics and distract from unpleasant developments at home, Mr. Trump may make further concessions to the North Korean dictator, like a peace declaration, partial sanctions relief, or continued limitations on United States military exercises or troop presence without receiving tangible, irreversible concessions in return.
Rice’s advice to the President was to use the Iran nuclear negotiations as a guide. Yes really. She wrote:
The model for this approach, anathema as it is to Mr. Trump, is the Iran nuclear negotiations. First, the Obama administration reached an interim agreement with Iran to freeze its nuclear development and roll back aspects of its program in exchange for limited and reversible sanctions relief. This Joint Plan of Action created the conditions for extended negotiations to achieve — over a year and a half later — a final, verifiable deal to denuclearize Iran. This plan was affirmed by Congress and enshrined in international law. Iran was fully adhering to its obligations when the Trump administration unilaterally withdrew last year.
Rush Limbaugh told the story of a Princeton history professor who said “this was a bad thing for Trump to be doing while these Cohen hearings are going on because what could happen is that Trump could sign a bad agreement with North Korea just to distract everybody from Michael Cohen.”
The left was worried about a reverse “wag the dog” situation, that Trump might sign a peace agreement instead of starting a war in an effort to divert attention.
Why didn’t they say, instead, that it was a bad idea for House leadership to have scheduled the Cohen hearings when the President was attending an overseas peace summit?
Anyway, most Americans were shocked to wake up to the news that the talks had collapsed. But there was someone else who may have been even more surprised. That would be Chinese President Xi Jinping.
When Kim refused to denuclearize completely, Trump walked away from the table in front of the world.
China expert Gordon Chang is praising Trump for his decision. He said “that what on the surface looked like a diplomatic stalemate could in fact be a diplomatic coup for Trump when it comes to North Korea’s neighbor.”
Chang said, “I think this is a moment of reassessment for China.”
Chang told Fox News “that Trump also showed Beijing that he is not afraid to walk away from a bad deal amid trade talks and, in doing so, put added pressure on Xi, whose popularity appears to be waning due to the country’s economic stagnation.” Chang added that “Xi has found himself in a “no win” situation: either he agrees to abandon the country’s “selfish” model or he continues to watch the economy suffer.”
Xi is well aware that achieving an agreement on denuclearization with Kim was a priority for Trump. He also knows that Trump is very anxious to sign a trade deal with China. Up until now, however, Xi may have underestimated the US President. Xi’s respect for and possibly fear of Trump has probably increased after today’s show of strength.
Trump’s decision is being compared to President Reagan’s willingness to walk away from the 1986 Reykjavik Summit where he and then-General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev held negotiations. “The talks collapsed at the last minute, but the progress that had been achieved eventually resulted in the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty between the United States and the Soviet Union.
Kim was likely surprised that Trump refused the deal. After all, US presidents seem to have a knack for appeasement when it comes to North Korea.
But, their relationship is still intact and there might be one more opportunity for the two to meet during Trump’s first term, although there are no specific plans at this point. Should there be another chance, Kim knows exactly what Trump’s terms will be.
CNBC is reporting that Congressional leaders, including Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, have commended Trump’s decision.