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Singapore Summit: The Art of the Fail
Donald Trump went to Singapore and got a bad deal at the price of a summit with Kim Jong-un -- a deal he could have had for free last summer.
Donald Trump is claiming a triumph after his meeting with Kim Jong-un, whom the International Bar Association War Crimes Committee says should face trial for crimes against humanity.
Trump has changed the dynamic between the North Korean regime and the US to be sure – but not in a good way. He has thrown away a significant card (a summit meeting and the legitimacy it bestows on Kim) in exchange for a deal he could have had last summer. Trump has signed up for the double freeze proposal China made back when the language between Pyongyang and Washington was all “fire and fury.”
Kim wanted (needed?) the meeting with the American president, the photo ops, and the discussion of North Korean security as a nuclear power. He wanted the prestige and an end to his country's status as an international pariah. Every US president before Trump has declined to meet with North Korea's leader because North Korea offered very little in exchange.
Hold that thought and let us move on to the Chinese proposal of a “double freeze.” Minxin Pei of Claremont College wrote in the Japan Times back in July 2017, “The answer [to the hostile verbal exchanges], according to some, is to pursue a 'double freeze,' in which North Korea freezes its nuclear and missile activities in exchange for the U.S. and South Korea freezing their joint military exercises.”
The good professor added, “In accepting a double freeze, the U.S. would essentially be rewarding North Korea for ceasing activities that are already in violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions.”
So it was a bad deal then, and U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley called it "insulting" when she rejected it last September. She stated in the UN Security Council, "When a rogue regime has a nuclear weapon and an [intercontinental ballistic missile] pointed at you, you do not take steps to lower your guard. No one would do that. We certainly won't."
Yesterday, Mr. Trump lowered our guard, saying the US would halt the “provocative” exercises the US holds with South Korea, using the North's description of these self-defense exercises. And North Korea is done testing its weapons because its test site collapsed and is out of commission.
It's the double freeze that he could have had a year ago for free, which was insulting then. It's still a bad deal, it's still insulting, and he gave up one of America's best bargaining chips to get it.
You should never pay for something when you can get it for free. Trump broke that rule in Singapore. There's a reason he can't get a loan from a US bank and has to rely on dirty Russian rubles for his company's survival. He is actually bad at making deals.
In six months, when the follow-on talks have achieved nothing, he says he still won't admit he made a mistake. But he did – a big one.
Next step: Donald Trump meets Kim Jong-un this summer.