Moon of Alabama — May 16, 2018
The Trump administration thought it was an easy path in its negotiations with North Korea. Trump was euphoric when North Korea released three U.S. prisoners and proudly announced the June 12 summit with Kim Jong-un in Singapore where North Korea would agree to give up all its nuclear weapons and nuclear development programs. Trump would get a Nobel peace prize and all would be well.
This was a serious miscalculation based on a lack of understanding. It misread each and every statement North Korea made. The Trump administration has no ambassador in South Korea, the most experienced North Korea expert at the State Department left in disgust. The National Security Council is run by a maniac who had sabotaged earlier agreements with North Korea and wants to do it again.
North Korea’s overarching aim is to gain enough security to cut its military expenses and to then use its resources for economic development. The method to achieve peace with the U.S. was progress in its nuclear weapons program. Each time a milestone was reached in the nuclear field North Korea sought talks with South Korea and the United States. It offered some concessions – to stop or slow its progress in its development of nuclear warheads and missile – in exchange for a peace agreement and economic support. Each time a deal was made the U.S. did not stick to its commitment. The promised oil supplies were not delivered, the civilian nuclear reactors the U.S. promised were not built. Each time an agreement failed North Korea started the next phase of its nuclear weapons program up to the next milestone.
Last year it finally reached the apex. It tested a thermonuclear device, the ultimate destructive weapon. It launched an intercontinental missile that can carry such a bomb to the continental United States. North Korea is now a full-fledged nuclear state. After this achievement, North Korea was again ready to negotiate.
When Donald Trump came into office promising that he would not condone a nuclear weapon capable North Korea that could threaten the United States. He launched a “maximum pressure” campaign to take away North Korea’s nuclear weapons. The UN security council put strong sanctions on North Korea.
North Korea was already ready to negotiate. It were not the sanctions that brought it to the table. It was its new status as a nuclear power. The Trump administration never understood that. It believed that its “maximum pressure” campaign brought North Korea to offer “complete denuclearization”. North Korea used that wording but it was meant as an aspirational aim for the whole world, not a unilateral disarmament of its new capabilities.
The Trump administration did not get it – or did not want to get it. This was partly out of stupidity and lack of knowledge, it was partly mischievous: