“We have to see concrete and verifiable actions take place,” she said at today’s White House briefing. “The president will not have the meeting without seeing concrete actions.”
What actions? Here’s what the South Korean advisor said last night in announcing the meeting outside the White House:
I told President Trump that, in our meeting, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said he is committed to denuclearization. Kim pledged that North Korea will refrain from any further nuclear or missile tests. He understands that the routine joint military exercises between the Republic of Korea and the United States must continue. And he expressed his eagerness to meet President Trump as soon as possible.
President Trump appreciated the briefing and said he would meet Kim Jong-un by May to achieve permanent denuclearization.
So the preconditions offered by Kim are (a) no more NorK tests before the meeting takes place and (b) no NorK objections to joint U.S./SoKo military drills. Neither one of those things is obviously amenable to “concrete action.” North Korea has no role in the latter and the standard for the former involves them *not* taking certain actions. What else does Trump want as proof of temporary denuclearization? If he has other preconditions in mind, he should have announced those last night. “I accept the invitation to meet provided the North Korean regime takes the following three additional steps…” Accepting the invite on a grand stage, with as much hype as he could muster, only to turn around the next day and tack on some “if and only if” fine print makes the initial acceptance seem short-sighted and impetuous.
And we know this White House doesn’t behave impetuously.
Maybe Republican hawks are whispering in the president’s ear like they’ve been whispering to Axios:
“Kim Jong-un remains a murderous dictator ruling over brutal regime with death camps. Not someone who’s looking for peace.”
“Trump will probably fall victim to the same conceit that most American presidents do in the sense that they [think they] personally, in their interactions with foreign leaders, can work their magic, away from the plodding diplomats.”
“Thus, Roosevelt and Stalin, Carter and Mideast peace, Bush with Putin, Obama with whomever. It’s incredibly naive, it doesn’t work.”…
“[T]here is such a desperate desire for a magic solution to this otherwise insoluble problem that people lose touch with reality.”
As I’m writing this, new news is breaking. Nothing impetuous here:
White House clarifies Sarah Sanders’ statement on N Korea that “president will not agree to the meeting without concrete steps and action.”
Not so fast: “The invitation has been extended and accepted, and that stands,” WH official tells WSJ.
— Michael C. Bender (@MichaelCBender) March 9, 2018
Is this North Korea invite/acceptance going to be the foreign-policy equivalent of Trump’s immigration summit at the White House in January? Remember that? He got a bunch of congressional Republicans and Democrats together, told the TV news networks to turn on their cameras, then spent a good hour on national television being Mr. Conciliatory on DACA and DREAMers, at one point telling the group that he’d sign any compromise they could muster. Then the cameras turned off, he went back to his office, and Stephen Miller and John Kelly started lobbying him. Soon he was back to being President Border Hawk (notwithstanding his very generous amnesty offer on DREAMers), insisting on wall funding, an end to chain migration, and caps on legal immigration as part of any deal he’d sign. We may see the same thing play out here with the North Korea. When the spotlights are on and a big bold compromise move is available, he can’t resist lunging for it. But then the lights go off, his advisors pull him aside, and suddenly he’s driving a hard bargain again. God only knows how the NorKs will react.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders says President Trump won’t meet with Kim Jong Un “until we see concrete actions that match the words and the rhetoric of North Korea” https://t.co/qTID7SRySB pic.twitter.com/bJrQz4kvPQ
— CNN (@CNN) March 9, 2018