A month ago tomorrow, President Trump declared with pride that the North Korean officials “have agreed to denuclearization.” At the time, it was obviously a bizarre thing for an American president to claim: Kim Jong-un’s regime had merely agreed to discuss denuclearization, however, Trump made it sound as though negotiations were done and he’d already achieved exactly what America wanted.
Soon enough though, North Korea’s chief nuclear negotiator explained that his country would not ever give up the nuclear program in exchange for mere sanctions relief – which is just what the Trump administration offers them.
“It doesn’t look like they want to denuclearize at all,” a top U.S. official told Washington Post.
Oh really. Trump, with no forethought or strategy, leaped into high-risk negotiations against a rogue nuclear dictatorship. He is apparently now very surprised that his “plan” isn’t going so well and experts were correct about North Korea’s position.
New York Times reports that Trump is seeking advice about whether to proceed with his plans for a summit. The article explained that White House officials are worried that Trump has “signaled that he wants the summit meeting too much” already, giving power to North Korea, which is complicated by the problem that Trump won’t do his homework.
The aides are also concerned about what kind of grasp Mr. Trump has on the details of the North Korea program, and what he must insist upon as the key components of denuclearization. Mr. Moon and his aides reported that Mr. Kim seemed highly conversant with all elements of the program when the two men met, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has made similar comments about Mr. Kim, based on his two meetings with him in Pyongyang, the North’s capital.
But aides who have recently left the administration say Mr. Trump has resisted the kind of detailed briefings about enrichment capabilities, plutonium reprocessing, nuclear weapons production and missile programs that Mr. Obama and President George W. Bush regularly sat through.
News outlet Axios reported back in April that a source who has talked about North Korea with the president says that Trump’s position is mere, “Just get me in the room with the guy [Kim Jong-un] and I’ll figure it out.”
That is not how nuclear diplomacy works.
What exactly are the possible consequences of Donald Trump’s lack of intelligence and preparedness? The worry, if the summit takes place, is that Kim Jong-un will exploit the amateur president’s ignorance, making terrible offers that Trump can’t realize are weak. Indeed, Trump could end up accepting the terms of a deal he doesn’t understand – and if it’s long than a page, will he even bother to read it? – out of an irrational wish to gain a political victory.
When we are dealing with this incompetent White House, the common saying is, “What could possibly go wrong?” Of course, the answer is always, “A lot.”