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PostKim-Trump Summit: And the Winner Is... (Istvan Simon, USA, 06/13/18 4:44 pm)
I am somewhat surprised that I have not yet read on WAIS an analysis on the summit between president Trump and Kim Jong Un. Maybe they are all in the pipeline, but in any case let me offer mine.
The Wall Street Journal has an article saying the unexpected winner of the summit is China.
I concur that China is one of the winners, but not with it being unexpected. On the contrary, not only this was expected, at least by me, but completely predictable. I explain why in this post.
The whole outcome of the summit was completely predictable. It seemed evident that president Trump was so eager for this summit that he would sign anything, and then hype it to the sky like he has been doing since signing the summit communique. Let's start with the question of why he was so eager to meet one of the worst dictators in the world.
First, the president is in desperate trouble. The Mueller investigation is progressing on pace, Michael Cohen is about to flip on him, and the likelihood that he will die in prison has been increasing every single day. A Blue Tsunami is likely in the November midterm elections which will guarantee that he is impeached. His lapdogs in Congress, Devin Nunes and others, are under criminal investigation themselves and will not be able to continue to protect him from the law for much longer. So this is one point of the general political situation that prompted Trump to try to achieve a major foreign policy success, a historic first that he could hype to high heaven. I think that the other reason for his eagerness for the summit with the North Korean dictator is his evident Obama-envy. Obama got the Nobel Peace Prize, and Trump wants it badly, desperately. So all this explains his eagerness a priori to meet with Kim.
Second, Kim Jong Un completely out-maneuvered Trump much before the summit, and it was evident that no matter what would happen in the future he already won. This happened when he famously publicly declared that he would give all that the Americans wanted from him. He invited journalists when he supposedly blew up his test site. He then visited Xi Jin Ping in China twice, virtually insuring that Trump would have no chance at all in achieving anything meaningful if the summit took place. Kim won because he successfully put Trump on the defensive. If Trump did not go through with the summit, he could credibly claim that it was impossible to do business with the United States, because he had publicly declared his willingness to do all we wanted and yet it was not enough.
If the summit did take place, he would win, independently of what would be signed, because he would become from international pariah a superstar. Indeed he was applauded by loving throngs of genuine real people as he arrived in Singapore--I mean not North Koreans clapping like robots, but actual people hopeful that peace was at hand. Not bad for a guy who just a few months ago murdered his half-brother with a nerve agent at a public airport.
Third, the president of the United States guaranteed that Kim Jong Un would win by a total lack of preparation. To an incredulous world he declared on the eve of the summit that he did not need any preparation, that he would "know" a minute after meeting Kim if something good was to happen at the summit, that "that is what he does," he just gets these things, by magic. This incredible stupidity of our president, which insured that he had no idea whatsoever about what was needed for a nuclear accord, because he failed to get informed about this rather complex matter, virtually guaranteed that Kim Jong Un would be the winner, not just by what I have written above, by also in what would be actually signed. And indeed this happened also. In football terms the final score was 28 Fat Boy vs. 3 for Conald.
Indeed let's see what was actually signed. Kim Jong Un announced an intention for complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. Trump forgot the irreversible, verifiable, etc., so Secretary Pompeo is now busily declaring after the fact that these previously important keywords somehow are implied by the rest. (If so, why was there so much insistence and emphasis on these words prior to the summit?) Not that it matters anyway, as I will analyze shortly.
And what did Trump give in return? He gave for an intention some concrete huge advantages to North Korea. He accepted the North Korean rhetoric on our joint military exercises being "provocative" and said they will no longer happen. This blindsided our ally, South Korea, and threw them under the bus. This is a huge concession and it might cost the United States dearly, should war break out.
To justify this incredible stupidity the president declared that we would save huge amounts of money by not holding these exercises, and suggested that we will save even more when he brings the American forces home in the future. In view of this, we need to ask, does this president have a single functioning brain cell?
Why are the exercises essential? Well they are essential because our forces are continually being rotated in and out of Korea. That means new people are there that are unfamiliar with everything on a regular basis. To say that we will save money by not doing the exercises is the equivalent of saying that we can save a lot of money by not sending our kids to school, no books to buy, teachers to pay, etc. Or in sports terms the same as to say, the Golden State Warriors need no longer practice--they are good enough already as proved by the fact that they are champions once again.
The president withdrew the United States from a meticulously negotiated internationally signed detailed nuclear accord with Iran, which he termed the worst deal ever, and just signed a deal in which he got nothing but a promise, with no details, nothing about nuclear fuel, nothing about rockets, or how it would be verified, nothing about a time table, or a myriad of important details that could not be negotiated because he is completely ignorant of it all.
So how did China win big time? Well the president of the United States just gave up without a peep huge chunks of American influence in the region. He signaled even deeper disengagement of the United States from the world. Who benefits? Evidently China.
Next I address my point that this was no surprise but was completely predictable. I note initially that the president's tweets are a terrible way to negotiate with anyone and it will insure that the United States loses in every agreement we should negotiate by this administration. It is a huge giveaway of the way he "thinks," of what he worries about, where his attention lies. I put the word in quotes, because frankly in my opinion this president is unable to have a single coherent thought. He is unable to think long term or strategically, all his thoughts are tactical and about the 6 o'clock news on Faux News. That is all he is worried about.
By being completely transparent of what he really is worried about, the president gives a huge advantage to anybody that negotiates with us. He is also completely erratic, which undermines United States credibility on everything. The world views us as a laughing stock--we are not respected by allies and enemies alike. We have become a banana republic under this administration.
That China would win was predictable, because without China there can be no agreement on anything regarding North Korea. The only question was by how much China would win, and the idiotic concessions of Trump insured a win by a huge margin.
The president's slogan was Make America Great Again. What he is doing in reality is the exact opposite--he is Making America Small Again, "saving money" by withdrawing from the world, thereby insuring that our influence is ever diminishing, a huge gain for America's enemies, and a huge loss to ourselves and our allies.
JE comments: A powerful and thoughtful analysis. Does anyone have a more sanguine view of the summit?
Kim-Trump Summit: Nothing More than a Nice Show?
(Eugenio Battaglia, Italy
06/14/18 5:13 AM)
Excellent post of Istvan Simon (13 June) from an American imperialist point of view, but there are other points of view.
The American missionary Homar Bezaleel Hubert in his article "Korea's Geographical Significance" (Journal of the American Geographical Society, 1900), wrote:
"Korea has been placed among great empires as a negation of a universal empire."
So it is true that Trump did not get a victory, but the Empire could not have won as per the above. The Empire started losing at Yalta, 1-11 February 1945, when it pushed the Soviet empire to attack Japan. Never incite a rival into an area that you want to dominate. Then it was the same Empire that in September 1945, using an old map from the National Geographic, offered Stalin two divided areas of occupation at the 38° Latitude North.
The removal of General MacArthur, 11 April 1951, from an imperialistic point of view, was another loss.
Empires must always expand, no matter what, as if they stop expanding they start to lose.
The Trump-Kim summit was a lot of noise with little substance. Kim cannot trust the security guarantees made by Trump; see the failed 1994 accord with Clinton and the cancelling of the accord with Iran. At the same time the Empire does not want to remove its troops from South Korea and Japan, but sooner or later at least Japan will be sick and tired of the US occupation troops.
The meeting, therefore, was just a nice show which perhaps after all will permit the continuation of the present status quo in a very difficult area.
The Empire may continue to dominate the area provided it is very careful.
China with its rising economic power has the dangerous syndrome of circumvention on its own shores.
Russia is at present compelled to value its Eastern regions economically and therefore militarily, while Japan, with its awakening foreign policy, is considering solutions to its territorial problems (island sovereignty) with all other empires including South Korea (Takeshima), while maintaining its traditional adversarial position with China and a growing intolerance of the US occupation troops.
However, the difficulties that Japan has with Russia over two Kuril Southern islands may have an economic solution for both Japan and Russia. This may at least temporarily cool the problem.
JE comments: So far we have one perspective missing in our discussion, that of South Korea. Does the South feel betrayed by Trump's commitment to discontinue joint military exercises? Or just possibly, relieved?
South Korea's Take on Kim-Trump Summit
(John Heelan, UK
06/14/18 5:00 PM)
JE asked on 14 June: "Does [South Korea] feel betrayed by Trump's commitment to discontinue joint military exercises? Or just possibly, relieved?"
Given the weak trustworthiness of both Kim and Trump, I suggest that South Korea, the profits of the US military/industrial complex, the economy and US unemployment figures--each of which Trump relies on for his populist support--might be more worried about the removal of South Korea's "nuclear umbrella" and tactical nuclear weapons that could be delivered from land and/or sea platforms.
"In August 2004, South Korea revealed the extent of its highly secretive and sensitive nuclear research programs to the IAEA, including some experiments which were conducted without the obligatory reporting to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) called for by South Korea's safeguards agreement. The failure to report was reported by the IAEA Secretariat to the IAEA Board of Governors; however, the IAEA Board of Governors decided to not make a formal finding of noncompliance. If the South created nuclear weapons it could change the balance of power on the Korean Peninsula."
In response to a journalist when asked what is most likely to blow governments off course, PM Macmillan allegedly replied: "Events, my dear boy, events," but it may never have been uttered at all. In today's increasingly uncertain world of South-East Asia and China, "events" might well happen and destroy all good intentions of the statesmen--not that Trump could be termed "a statesman" even by his supporters!
JE comments: How much to we know about South Korea's nuclear program? In a fully nuclearized Korean peninsula, the events could get very scary.
South Korea and Nuclear Weaspons
(Istvan Simon, USA
06/18/18 4:58 AM)
Thanks to John Heelan (June 14) for calling our attention to South Korea's nuclear program. Frankly, with Kim Jong-un's nukes this had to be expected, but I was not aware of it. Contrary to North Korea, South Korea is a technological and economic giant, so clearly it is only a matter of political will for South Korea to decide to develop its own nuclear weapons.
In my opinion, I will argue that it will make no difference, except for an increased risk of a nuclear accident which of course is a terrible possibility.
Neither Kim Jong-un nor South Korea, nor any nuclear power in the world, will ever use nuclear weapons intentionally. Nuclear weapons are simply useless in a world that has multiple nuclear powers. No power will ever use them intentionally, because it cannot predict the reaction of other nuclear powers to its use, and therefore the use of nuclear weapons is too high a risk for any power that has a sane person at the helm. Though I hesitate to call Trump or Putin or Kim Jong-un for example sane, nonetheless none of them is so insane that they would risk using nuclear weapons.
It follows from my analysis that we would indeed be much better off if the whole world would get rid of nuclear weapons as David Krieger advocates. Unfortunately, in my opinion, as I have also argued before on WAIS, the probability that this can be achieved is near zero. It is simply too hard to convince all current nuclear powers that they would be better off without these terrible weapons.
I am afraid we are condemned to live in a nuclear world where mutual deterrence is currently preferred to nuclear disarmament.
JE comments: Meanwhile, a Daily Beast poll concludes that self-identified Republicans in the US have a slightly more favorable view of Kim Jong-un than of Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi. Not sure what to make of this:
- Assessing the Trump-Kim Singapore Summit (David Krieger, USA 06/15/18 5:05 AM)
The Singapore Summit was a dramatic turn-around from the adolescent name-calling that Trump and Kim had engaged in only months before. Trump had labelled Kim as "Little Rocket Man," and Kim had labelled Trump as "Dotard." Having gotten through this, the summit was on for June 12, then it was abruptly cancelled by Trump when Mike Pence had referred to the "Libya model" for North Korean nuclear disarmament, and a North Korean official had called Pence a "political dummy." North Korean officials were understandably sensitive to the Libya model reference. They view Gaddafi's demise as a direct result of his giving up Libya's nuclear program. Then, in the midst of the chaos, something happened behind the scenes and suddenly the summit was back on for June 12, as originally planned.
It was a summit of smiles and handshakes. Little Rocket Man and Dotard seemed very happy in each other's company. They smiled incessantly, shook hands many times and, at one point, Trump gave a thumbs up.
The most obvious result of the summit was the change in tone in the relationship of the two men. Whereas the tone had once been nasty and threatening, it was now warm and friendly. The two men appeared to genuinely like each other and be comfortable in each other's company. For both, the new warmth of their relationship seemed likely to play well with important domestic constituencies. Although the summit elicited a lot of skepticism from US pundits, the optics were those of a breakthrough in a relationship once considered dangerous and a possible trigger to a nuclear conflict. Both men viewed the summit as a major achievement.
They each committed to a rather vague Summit Statement, which said in part: "President Trump committed to provide security guarantees to the DPRK (North Korea) and Chairman Kim Jong-un reaffirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula." Trump added as an unexpected sweetener that he would put a halt to the joint US-South Korean war games, which the North Koreans had long complained were highly provocative.
Each was being promised what he most desired: security for Kim and his regime, and complete denuclearization of North Korea for Trump. They were also gaining in stature in their home countries. Prior to the summit, Trump was asked by a reporter if he thought he deserved the Nobel Peace Prize, to which he coyly responded, "Everyone thinks so, but I would never say it."
There was much, however, that didn't emerge from the Singapore summit, and it can be summarized in a single word: "details." The ultimate value of the summit will be found in the details that are agreed to and acted upon going forward. Will these details build or destroy trust? Will Kim truly believe that he can trust Trump (or a future American president) to give security to the Kim regime? Will Trump (or a future American president) truly believe that Kim is following up on denuclearizing? The answers to these questions will depend upon details that have yet to be agreed upon, including those related to inspections and verification.
While the summit has relieved tensions between the two nuclear-armed countries, nuclear dangers have not gone away on the Korean Peninsula or in the rest of the world. These dangers will remain so long as any country, including the US, continues to rely upon nuclear weapons for its national security. Such reliance encourages nuclear proliferation and will likely lead to the use of these weapons over time--by malice, madness or mistake.
We can take some time to breathe a sigh of relief that nuclear dangers have lessened on the Korean Peninsula, but then we must return to seeking the complete abolition of nuclear weapons. An important pathway to this end is support for the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, adopted by the United Nations in 2017 and now open for state signatures and deposit of ratifications.
JE comments: David Krieger echoes nearly everyone's take on the summit: the details are sorely lacking, but relations between NK and the US are certainly less tense than before. WAISers know I have no love for Trump, but let me pose a Devil's Advocate question: Should the fuzzy accord actually lead to NK's denuclearization, why not award the Nobel jointly to Kim and Trump? (Just in case, Hell is stocking up on snowballs.)
Kim-Trump Summit in Two Sentences
(Henry Levin, USA
06/16/18 5:31 AM)
We have two pieces of meaningless cardboard, one signed with Korean characters and one with the inflated signature, both pieces of cardboard from sub-humans of bad character.
The main effect has been to celebrate the centrality on the world stage of two evil characters.
JE comments: Meaningless, perhaps, but actual cardboard is also harmless. Ever notice that in diplomacy, mean leaders who play nice are admired, while nice leaders who act tough are usually mocked?
- Kim-Trump Summit: Will Kim Give Up His Nukes? (Istvan Simon, USA 06/17/18 5:33 AM)
Thanks to David Krieger (June 15) for his analysis of the Singapore summit, a topic I started and had hoped would catch on.
Like David and much of the world, I would like the de-nuclearization of the entire world, not just the Korean peninsula. But unlike David, I have been very skeptical that it can be ever achieved. In fact, I do not believe that Kim Jong Un will give up his nukes, even though he just signed his intention to do so.
Trump wants to give security guarantees and economic aid for Kim to give up his nukes and rockets. But what are his guarantees worth, when just weeks before the summit his administration was so tone-deaf that two high officials, Pence and Bolton, mentioned the Libyan model? Clearly Kim Jong Un would be foolish to give up his nukes, for unlike Gaddafi he has actual nukes not just a nuclear program.
The very reason why North Korea was so determined to get nukes, willing to starve its population and even defy China to get them at any cost, is our invasion of Iraq and that determination was surely reinforced by the overthrow and killing of Gaddafi. But it gets worse. The credibility of the United States is zero in the world because of Trump's irresponsible actions. He withdrew the United States from the Paris accords, he abrogated the Iran nuclear deal, he unilaterally imposed tariffs on our allies. If he treats our allies with such disdain, how can any enemies trust him? The answer is they cannot, should not, and so this entire effort is doomed to fail, never mind all the smiles, or Trump saluting a general of North Korea with whom the United States is still formally at war!
I would like to finish this post with another important point. Let's suppose that I am wrong and that Kim Jong Un actually will destroy his nukes in spite of my skepticism. Secretary Pompeo has been harping at the word "irreversible." I claim It is meaningless and useless. Since Kim has actual nukes, even destroying them would not ever be irreversible, because he has the knowledge and technology to build new ones at any time.
JE comments: Who can walk us through the technology here? Let's suppose Kim gives up his nukes and the machinery to enrich uranium. How long then would it take him to re-boot and build a new bomb, should he desire to? Months? A year or more?
A technicality: the US and North Korea cannot still "formally" be at war, if there never was a declared war to begin with.
- Kim-Trump Summit: Will Kim Give Up His Nukes? (Istvan Simon, USA 06/17/18 5:33 AM)
- Assessing the Trump-Kim Singapore Summit (David Krieger, USA 06/15/18 5:05 AM)
- South Korea and Nuclear Weaspons (Istvan Simon, USA 06/18/18 4:58 AM)
- South Korea's Take on Kim-Trump Summit (John Heelan, UK 06/14/18 5:00 PM)