The latest developments in the U.S.-North Korea nuclear talks should serve as a cautionary tale for President Donald J. Trump as he prepares to meet with another soul-sucking dictator, Russia’s Vladimir Putin.
Just about a month after Trump met with North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un and declared that the secretive Communist nation was no longer a military threat, the government in Pyongyang has accused the U.S. of making “gangster-like” demands.
The charge came just hours after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo concluded a two-day meeting with senior official Kim Yong Chol aimed at fleshing out the issues discussed by Trump and Kim.
Of singular importance is the goal of denuclearization and determining how it might be verified.
Like his boss, Pompeo tried to put a positive spin on the meeting, saying his discussions had been productive and conducted in good faith.
But in a statement carried by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency, the foreign ministry said the outcome of the talks was “very concerning” because it has led to a “dangerous phase that might rattle our willingness for denuclearization that had been firm.”
“We had expected that the U.S. side would offer constructive measures that would help build trust based on the spirit of the leaders summit … we were also thinking about providing reciprocal measures,” the statement said. “However, the attitude and stance the United States showed in the first high-level meeting (between the countries) was no doubt regrettable. Our expectations and hopes were so na Øve it could be called foolish.”
Pompeo, borrowing a page from Trump’s rule book, sought to blame the press for North Korea’s negative response.
“People are going to make certain comments after meetings. If I paid attention to the press, I’d go nuts, and I refuse to do that.”
The U.S. secretary of state knows better than to pretend the reaction from the North Koreans is fake news, as the president would undoubtedly portray it.
The press did not seek out the foreign ministry for a statement. It was issued to the country’s official news agency.
The bottom line is this: Trump became the first U.S. president to meet with the leader of the most repressive nation on earth and used the get-together to burnish his self-styled reputation as a great negotiator.
As we said in an editorial after the June 12 summit, the clear winner was Kim Jong Un, whose iron-fisted rule was legitimized when photographs of him shaking hands with the leader of the free world were beamed around the world.
The idea that Kim was going to suddenly give up his nuclear ambitions just because Trump said nice things about him was na Øve, at best.
The latest reaction from the North Korean government to the goal of denuclearization is a reality check for a White House too willing to embrace dictators.
HELSINKI MEETING NEARS
Next Monday, President Trump will be sitting down with another brutal leader, Russian President Putin. While it may be an exaggeration to describe them as soulmates, there’s no doubt they belong to a mutual admiration society.
Trump grabbed international headlines when he called Putin in March to congratulate him on his election victory, which most objective observers dismissed as illegitimate. Putin won handily after he got rid of his opponents and critics.
Thus, when the Russian dictator and the American president meet in Helsinki, it will be advantage Putin. That’s because he’ll be receiving accolades from the leader of the world’s leading democracy.
Though the meeting is a public relations coup for the Russian, nothing substantive will come from it because any agreements reached won’t be the worth the paper they’re written on.
Like North Korea’s Kim, Russia’s Putin isn’t about to change his evil ways. His reign of terror ensures his political longevity.
So when Trump says “Only ‘stupid’ people or fools” would dismiss closer ties with Russia, the question he should answer before the Helsinki summit is what is he willing to give up in order to establish closer ties?
Putin’s annexation of Crimea, Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election to benefit Republican Trump over Democrat Hillary Clinton, Putin’s grand design of rebuilding the old Soviet Union and his involvement in the Syrian civil war serve as a backdrop to the meeting.
If Trump fails to confront him on those and other issues, it will confirm that the president of the United States is willing to kowtow to another dictator.