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It May Be Time for Trump to Abandon the North Korea Project

Robert Dimuro

Posted on June 2, 2019 10:50

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Showing no signs of denuclearization and purging top officials after a failed summit are signs that Kim Jong-Un is not yet prepared to engage in bona-fide negotiations with the United States.

Earlier this week, it was reported that North Korean Chairman Kim Jong-Un conducted a purge of top officials as a result of the failed summit with the US in Hanoi. Although it’s not the first time North Korea has carried out internal executions, this behavior is not encouraging for the prospect of successful, bona-fide negotiations between North Korea and the US (and the rest of the developed world).

Moreover, it would be immoral for Trump to continue engaging with the North Koreans knowing that his walking away from the negotiating table could result in the death of those with whom he and his diplomatic team have been talking. The status quo, being strict sanctions that punish North Korea for being an active nuclear threat, is fine for the US. From now on, it should be up to Kim to behave in a manner that allows negotiations to continue - negotiations that can garner his nation economic benefits and feed his starving population.

This latest purge isn’t the only signal that negotiation efforts have broken down. Since Trump’s first summit with Kim in Singapore, which was mostly just a “meet and greet,” no substantial efforts have been made by North Korea to dismantle its nuclear capabilities. They have merely halted ICBM tests, destroyed a nuclear facility that had already been inoperable, and returned the remains of our soldiers from the Korean War. If Kim thought this would be enough of a display to garner him significant sanctions relief, then he’s not fully aware of the US Commander-in-Chief with whom he’s dealing.

Too many times in the past, the US has fallen prey to North Korea’s deceit. We would dramatically reduce sanctions on scant evidence that North Korea would denuclearize, almost entirely based on its word, only to have North Korea amplify its nuclear development shortly thereafter. The only way to counter this activity is to demand denuclearization up front, which is exactly what Trump did. He called Kim’s bluff, and when Kim was unwilling to meet Trump’s criteria for sanctions relief, Trump simply walked away and didn’t cave in - as many likely would have if they were in his position.

At this point, there isn’t much more for Trump to gain from continuing to negotiate with the rogue regime. He has already done the unthinkable by meeting face-to-face with the leader of North Korea - and has done it twice. Before the initial summit in Singapore, North Korea was routinely launching ICBMs into the ocean, threatening Hawaii and the US territory of Guam. While this was going on, Trump and Kim were firing childish insults at each other. Tensions were at a peak, and something had to be done to ease them.  

If nothing else, Trump has eased these tensions. He turned an active nuclear threat into an adversary with which the United States can communicate and engage in civil negotiation. Now Trump can sit back and wait for Kim to make his next move.

Robert Dimuro

Posted on June 2, 2019 10:50

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President Trump and Kim Jong Un left Singapore Tuesday, praising their face-to-face progress toward ridding the Korean Peninsula...

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