Trump Solves North Korea

Theo Brandt, ‘22

April Fools

It’s really great to have a president who knows more than the generals. Using all the best words, he was able to get Little Rocket Man, the leader of North Korea, to agree to stop using nuclear weapons and apologize for his past aggressions. It was idealistic, it was wonderful, it was a beautiful thing. He would give himself an A+ on it, and so would the Bardvark. After this historic summit, we have triumphed over evil like nobody has ever seen before. Sometimes you have to toot your own horn because no one else is going to for you, and that is what President Trump did during the North Korea summit in Hanoi. He made it clear to Kim that he too has a Nuclear Button, but it is Bigger and more Powerful and his Button Works! Now everything is great again and anyone who tells you otherwise is fake news. Know your alternative facts, people! NO COLLUSION.

In reality, it ended in a friendly walk-out. Before the deal, President Trump boasted of his “personal chemistry” with Kim and said he’s a “great leader” who would have a “tremendous future” with U.S. help. His goal was to have a deal two days into the summit, yet he was the one to walk out. And before the June 2018 summit in Singapore, he was unprofessional and insulting to Kim, calling him “little rocket man.” This is problematic because it sends mixed messages to Kim and to the rest of the world, who would greatly appreciate if Trump had a coherent policy on this nuclear state which he would be able to stick to throughout his term as president and that would eventually translate into policy. Furthermore, it is harder for Kim to gauge what type of deal to make, and his eagerness to negotiate is crucial for denuclearization.

While Trump wanted a deal and Kim proposed a grand deal that could have potentially affected the country, it was set up to be largely ceremonial. As the Guardian pointed out, it was meant to be like the June 2018 summit which didn’t result in much, either. Already, the summit was basically doomed. But as both leaders were optimistic (and Trump’s optimism and wanting of a deal was good foreign policy), something could have been made of it. 

Currently, the U.N. has over a dozen sanctions against North Korea that are focused on the imports and exports of the peninsula, as well as disarmament. The U.S. sanctions specific officials. Kim wanted the termination of sanctions on North Korea by the U.N. such as the import ban on crude oil and the export bans on other seafood and minerals, as well as cap on the number of North Korean workers overseas (Bloomberg). This would actually help North Korea rebuild its economy around non-militaristic and non-nuclear endeavors. The sanctions, imposed in 2016, inhibit North Korea from having a normal economy. The strength of this proposal is that it could have potentially changed North Korea positively, and Trump walked away from it and received international and bipartisan praise. 

Trump of course mischaracterized the events of the summit. It is hard to gauge if this was a purposefully false recantation or if it was due to a lack of geopolitical understanding. He told the press that he walked out because Kim wanted all sanctions lifted. As the Associated Press explains, this is frankly not true. According to the North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, Kim only wanted the sanctions relating to economics to be lifted, not sanctions concerning disarmament. This makes sense, of course they wouldn’t propose to annul their enrichment of plutonium and uranium--and to close important plants such as the Yongbyon facility-- and then ask for their nuclear production to not be sanctioned. 

The walkaway was not at all a disaster. If anything, seemingly pleasant ending masked how much of a missed opportunity Kim’s deal was, and yes, I know that is not a very popular opinion. Trump claimed that the halt was friendly. Kim proposed another summit in the future and expressed his thanks. Both Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer praised Trump for walking away. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said that discontinuing negotiations gave Kim the right impression, and Japan’s close proximity to North Korea puts it in danger.

The Korea Times published an article humorously called “US baffled by reports on NK missile sites” revealing that South Korean intelligence uncovered that North Korea was rebuilding the Yongbyon facility which it had begun dismantling before the summit. North Korea’s other facilities are also functioning properly. North Korea had already begun dismantling their nuclear facilities, but reversed this. This doesn’t make anyone safer because they still produce ICBMs (intercontinental ballistic missiles) and use nuclear energy.