South Korea’s Presidential Blue House said it needed to “to find out the precise meaning or intentions” of Trump’s statement, while adding that it was willing to “explore various measures to help the talks move forward more smoothly.”…
The Pentagon was not immediately able to flesh out Trump’s remarks about suspending drills, a move the U.S. military has long resisted…
One South Korean official said he initially thought Trump had mis-spoke.
“I was shocked when he called the exercises ‘provocative,’ a very unlikely word to be used by a U.S. president,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because it was a politically sensitive issue.
Calling U.S. military exercises with South Korea “very provocative” is a line straight out of the North Korean songbook. American hawks were aghast on social media this morning at the leader of the free world adopting Pyongyang’s rhetoric to describe something the U.S. and South Korea have every legal right to do. Trading a halt to those exercises for a halt to NorK nuke- and missile-testing (a “freeze for freeze”) is defensible, even if NK’s activities are illegal while ours aren’t, but framing them in the terms most favorable to Kim is yet another example of Trump gratuitously flattering the North rhetorically when he didn’t need to.
And doing it without giving the South a heads up that it might happen is inexplicable. I suspect it has less to do with Kim talking Trump into something than with Trump looking for a reason to suspend exercises in the first place. He’s an isolationist at heart, remember; he’s spoken repeatedly about removing the American infantry “tripwire” from South Korea. The summit provided him with an opportunity to end “war games” with the South and he took it. We’re left to wonder what surprise concessions he might have in mind for his next meeting with Kim. Perhaps we’ll find out then that the boys are coming home from South Korea, with Seoul finding out right around the same time we do.
But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe Kim did talk him into it. He’s something from Trump’s press conference this morning that Ben Shapiro picked up; it’s POTUS describing how Kim explained North Korea’s nuclear and missile ambitions to him.
He said that, you know, there are reasons [Kim Jung Il] didn’t [abide by his agreements] because he was let down by the United States, but that’s irrelevant. What he’s doing, and and he very much said that, he said you know over the years — first of all, they’ve never gone this far, you know, they’ve never been at a level like this, and his father never dealt with a president, and a lot of other things. But he said, it’s very much on his mind. He said, ‘We are going to get this done.’ In the past we’ve tried, but it never worked out and it never did work out. And it was embarrassing actually to the United states and to our leadership.
The U.S. and South Korea are the aggressors and North Korea is just defending itself. That wouldn’t be the first time POTUS has accepted at face value a self-serving narrative shared with him by a foreign leader. Now we know where that “very provocative” talking point came from, I guess.
Bruce Klingner, a Korea specialist for the Heritage Foundation and former deputy division chief for the CIA, is unimpressed with the art of the deal in this case:
This is very disappointing. Each of the four main points was in previous documents with NK, some in a stronger, more encompassing way. The denuke bullet is weaker than the Six Party Talks language. And no mention of CVID, verification, human rights.
— Bruce Klingner (@BruceKlingner) June 12, 2018
The joke’s on him, though: Trump says he extracted an additional concession from Kim. It’s just that…
President Trump says he got North Korea to commit to destroying a major missile testing site but “we didn’t put it in the agreement because we didn’t have time.”
— Ryan Struyk (@ryanstruyk) June 12, 2018
Next time they’ll write it down, hopefully. Erick Erickson, sizing up the terms of yesterday’s deal, concludes that if Obama had gone and bro-hugged the monster from Pyongyang and came away with a framework as bare as Klingner describes, Republicans would be ready to impeach him. Undoubtedly correct:
We got nothing from this it would seem except the promise of more talking. And while we are talking, they are building nuclear weapons. About the only reason, they’ve gotten to this point is because China would very much like for the United States to wind down its military presence in Asia, so China has less to worry about as it expands.
The whole design of this is offensive. The President pees in the punch bowl of the G7, insists the Russians come back into the organization, then flies off to Singapore to make kissy face with a man who routinely murders his own people.
Had Barack Obama done that, Republicans would be demanding his impeachment.
There are ways to try to counter that. “Of course we wouldn’t trust Obama. He already proved with Iran that he’d agree to a terrible nuclear deal.” Right, but even if O had met Kim years before the Iran deal the GOP would still be irate. A better counter: “Trump had no choice but to deal with the North since they’re many years further along with their nuke program than they were under O. Diplomacy was an option for Obama. For Trump it’s a necessity.” I’m sympathetic to that — it’s essentially why I support the summit — but we still would have wrecked O even at this late stage in NK’s progress if he’d gotten nothing more than reheated past promises, as Trump did. (And *really* wrecked him if he’d slobbered over what a swell guy Kim seems like, as Trump did.) Remember, hawks (me included) went nuts when Obama suggested as a candidate in 2008 that he’d meet with leaders of rogue regimes like North Korea and Iran without preconditions. We must do everything we can to avoid war, he insisted. “Weak!” we cried. To the extent there’s anything more at work here than raw partisanship, it’s the fact that Trump’s image is so bound up with projecting strength that he can be as “weak” as he wants in practice and never take much flak for it. It’s “only Nixon can go to China” all over again. LBJ fought the communists in Vietnam but remained too far left to make it politically safe for him to reach out to Mao. Center-right Dick Nixon, though? Why, that’s just good strategy. We can trust that he’s not a commie symp.
Democrats have their own idiotic version of this hypothetical, incidentally:
Just trying to imagine what the media / political reaction would have been if Obama had lavishly embraced Kim Jong Un for those results…
— Ben Rhodes (@brhodes) June 12, 2018
They would have high-fived him, Ben, just like they always did. Especially after you went about creating an “echo chamber” for them.
Meh. Here’s POTUS in a moment of candor, admitting that if Kim stabs him in the back the way the NorKs have been stabbing U.S. administrations in the back for decades, he’ll just find some excuse to avoid admitting he was wrong. Of course, and the GOP will spin for him like an Iranian centrifuge.
Update: Mattis claims he wasn’t surprised by Trump’s announcement but U.S. command in South Korea hadn’t received any new orders as of this morning. And if Mattis knew, he kept the info very closely held: “In Washington, officials at the Pentagon, State Department and White House were scrambling to figure out exactly the impact of Mr. Trump’s comments.”
Trump says he trusts Kim Jong Un. And if he’s wrong? “I may be wrong, I mean I may stand before you in six months and say, ‘Hey I was wrong,'” said Trump, before adding, “I don’t know that I’ll ever admit that, but I’ll find some kind of an excuse.” https://t.co/J2k6ehVhW1 pic.twitter.com/onKaUHP2f3
— CNN Breaking News (@cnnbrk) June 12, 2018