Trump & Kim Jong Un — Read It and Weep

Republicans are having their usual asexual orgasms over the self-proclaimed “epochal event,” the “first in history,” etc. etc., culminating in a “joint statement” in which … what?

Before we get to that, it’s worth noting that the “historic summit” did not involve all of the actual parties to the problem allegedly being resolved. South Korea, a sovereign nation to whose secure existence the United States is officially committed, was not at the table. Of course, the leaders of North and South Korea had already met in late April and issued their own joint statement, about which more below. The Trump-Kim Jong Un meeting was apparently necessary because the United States is the patron of South Korea. Which raises the question of China that has been the patron of North Korea. Such are the vagaries of international relations.

There is also the fact that the pre-summit bargaining position of the Trump Administration, announced by the current Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Trumpian/stentorian terms, that the U.S. would accept nothing less than “complete, and verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula” is nowhere in sight in the joint statement.

So, after a “comprehensive, in-depth and sincere exchange of opinions” [yes, the parties agreed they were sincere in their protestations of mutual affection] Trump agreed to provide “security guarantees” to the DPRK, and Chairman Kim Jong Un “reaffirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”

What are those “security guarantees?” Has the United States agreed to protect North Korea from China? Or, is this just so much diplomatic frosting on the theatrical cake? Is Kim Jong Un’s re-affirmed dedication [which by definition preceded the summit] to “complete denuclearization” equivalent to “complete, and verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization?” Doesn’t seem like equivalence and, if not, what is it equivalent to? We have seen this before. And before.

Close reading of the actual joint statement reveals some further curiosities:

  1. “The United States and the DPRK commit to establish new US-DPRK relations in accordance with the desire of the peoples of the two countries for peace and prosperity. [What about the desires of the people of South Korea? Arguably, that was covered in the earlier joint statement of North and South Korea, known as the Panmunjom Declaration.]
  2. The United States and DPRK will join their efforts to build a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula. [In English: let’s work together for peace. Bravo]
  3. Reaffirming the April 27, 2018 Panmunjom Declaration, the DPRK commits to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula [The text of the Panmunjom Declaration for comparison with the content of the Trump-Jong Un joint statement is at] The Trump-Jong Un statement is only 394 words (372 if you discount the redundancy of paragraph 2 with paragraph 3) while the earlier Panmunjom Declaration is very specific about many of the steps to be taken and comprises 1,127 words. The two Koreas had much more of substance to say than North Korea and the U.S.]
  4. The United States and the DPRK commit to recovering POW/MIA remains, including the immediate repatriation of those already identified.

Having acknowledged that the US-DPRK summit — the first in history — was an epochal event of great significance in overcoming decades of tensions and hostilities between the two countries and for the opening up of a new future, President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un commit to implement the stipulations in the joint statement fully and expeditiously. The United States and the DPRK commit to hold follow-on negotiations, led by the US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, and a relevant high-level DPRK official, at the earliest possible date, to implement the outcomes of the US-DPRK summit.[Lots of self-adulation (what else from these two?) but no additional substance. They’ll get together again soon to discuss implementation of whatever they think they agreed to.]

President Donald J. Trump of the United States of America and Chairman Kim Jong Un of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea have committed to cooperate for the development of new US-DPRK relations and for the promotion of peace, prosperity, and the security of the Korean Peninsula and of the world.”

To avoid misunderstanding, I want to say that almost any rational communication between previously hostile and non-communicating nuclear powers is better than no communication. On the other hand, Trump has apparently made commitments regarding relations with South Korea related to joint military exercises (comments that top military leaders may already be walking back) that may not have been fully vetted and for which no meaningful quid pro quo was received. We cannot adequately assess the whole of the so-called “negotiation” until more is known about what happened in the private meeting between the two leaders.  They didn’t attack each other and stomp out of the room and that’s a victory of sorts but let’s keep our heads for a while. This may be nothing more than a publicity stunt for both sides.

Bottom line — Trump may be readying himself to receive the Nobel Prize but the Swedes had better wait to see the meat on the summit bone before deifying Trump as the great peacemaker. Among the many important facts we still do not know about this hastily arranged meeting and joint statement are the real reasons that Kim Jong Un has suddenly become such a pliable and reasonable soul. Trump’s propensity to oversimplify everything and turn them into a TV-show sound bite formula for his base may be masking some serious issues that have not yet surfaced. Kim Jong Un’s sudden change of heart/style/position must be thoroughly understood before the real meaning of these overtures can be assessed. Trump’s base may buy the idea that it was Trump’s tough talk that brought North Korea to the table, but that is far too simplistic and utterly improbable in light of the North Korean diplomatic history.

Final thought – Trump is going to present himself as the great negotiator again, the man who single-handedly solved the world’s most serious nuclear problem. Democrats better get ready fast to address those claims with a serious and understandable reality check because Trump’s claims will resonate with some voters who are not in Trump’s base or who are hanging on the precipice and swingable for the 2018 election.

For a similar opinion from elsewhere, see

Oh, one other thing. the Canadians and our other former allies in the G7 must be really frosted after being condemned by Trump as he was heading to Asia to pal up with yet another dictator (did you know, Trump and Jong Un were referred to as “the two dictators” by in a Fox broadcast without objection or even notice?). Trump’s motives in all this have to be considered suspect in light of the Russia connection and Putin’s ongoing efforts to sabotage U.S. elections. Mr. Mueller, you need to act soon. It’s getting late.

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