Nothing Yet And No Promises

If all goes according to plan President Trump will be meeting with North Korean Leader Kim Jung-un sometime next month in a location yet to be announced and I assume determined.  The purpose of the meeting is to reduce the threat of a nuclear armed North Korea. Some on the right are already claiming victory and portraying Trump as a great statesman and negotiator. Nothing could be further from the truth. Let’s explore.  

North Korea has announced they will basically take a vacation from developing and testing nuclear weapons and delivery systems in the run up to the meeting. Of course, Trump and his mouthpieces are proclaiming this as a great victory. Listening to them it’s almost like North Korea capitulated in advance of the talks.

Here are the realities. North Korea’s actions are basically normal diplomatic “dancing”. Effectively they just took a break. They have dismantled or destroyed nothing. Their stockpile of nuclear weapons and delivery systems remain frozen in time. Assuming they are telling the complete truth (and that is a bold assumption) the only thing they lost was some development time. (That begs the question: Where does a North Korean nuclear scientist go on vacation?) There is a very good chance that research is still going on at a hidden site(s) and the more easily detectable tests are simply not necessary over the next few weeks.

This week the leader of the free world was in Washington, French President Emmanuel Macron visited the White House. Later this week the de facto leader of Europe German Chancellor Angela Merkel is also scheduled to visit Washington. This much international political clout hasn’t been in the White House since Barack Obama moved out. All my (perfectly accurate) sarcasm aside, a major purpose of the visits is for the leaders to convince Trump not to withdraw from the Iran Nuclear Deal. The next deadline for remaining in the deal is May 12th which could very well precede the talks. If America welches on the Iran Deal why would North Korea trust Trump not to do the same on any deal reached with them?

I am among those who believe that North Korea will not give up its existing nuclear arms. Kim is looking at recent history and has seen that as regimes have let go of their weapons of mass destruction shortly thereafter they have been toppled with American help. That’s not much of an incentive to make a deal.

I know I come from the other end of the political spectrum but going into the talks we don’t exactly have an A team to put on the field. On the assumption that Mike Pompeo is confirmed as Secretary of State here is our “starting lineup”: Trump, Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton. An ignorant and arrogant President backed up by a rookie Secretary of State and an inexperienced National Security Advisor with a paper thin resume much of which is bad. The “bench” (State Department senior career diplomats) is badly depleted and in many cases non-existent. How this encourages optimism is beyond me.

Trump is under the impression that somehow he is going to walk in and wow Kim into a one sided and favorable to America agreement all on his own. I see two probable outcomes assuming the meeting actually takes place. (I now feel that it is likely to at least commence.)

The most likely outcome is some agreement in which the North Koreans receive American aid or at least sanction relief in exchange for a fictional disarmament will be reached. The Trump team will declare victory, cite Trump as a genius negotiator, paint his predecessors as incompetents, and his base will proclaim him the greatest negotiator and President of all time.

The other likely scenario is that the talks are such a total farce that Trump (prodded by Bolton) walks and we soon thereafter enter into military action against North Korea. That would offer a great distraction from Russiagate and the multitude of other scandals plaguing Trump; so what if somewhere between a few hundred thousand and millions die in the process? In Trump and his base’s minds the casualties will overwhelmingly be non-Caucasian and therefore less valuable.

I am glad it appears the talks will take place. If people are talking there is always a chance of a peaceful resolution to their differences. I am simply being practical and pragmatic not wildly optimistic. I also sincerely hope I am incorrect but fear I am not. Over the next few days may Macron and Merkel be great salespeople.

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