Trump enters North Korea, but to what effect?


Yesterday we examined the last minute offer by President Trump to travel to the DMZ and meet yet again with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. Earlier this morning all of the details were hammered out and the President traveled to the DMZ, crossing over the border and becoming the first sitting United States president to enter the hermit nation. What followed was a much longer than anticipated private meeting along with a media frenzy as reporters scrambled to record the event. (NY Post)

President Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un shook hands during a historic meeting Sunday at the demilitarized zone that divides the Korean peninsula.

Trump crossed the narrow no-man’s land on foot from South Korea and into North Korea, where Kim stepped forward to great him.

The two then shared a brief handshake as a gesture of peace at the most heavily fortified border in the world.

No US president had ever before set foot in North Korea since the peninsula was split after World War II.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in had chimed in ahead of the trip, describing Trump’s decision as “being so brave.” He went on to say, “I hope President Trump will go down in history as the president who achieves peace on the Korean Peninsula.”

If they had just done the handshake, posed for a few pictures and left this would have been nothing but a photo op, though still making some history in terms of “firsts.” But Trump and Kim disappeared into a private room with their translators for nearly an hour. They didn’t emerge with any major announcements beyond the usual comments about “historic meetings” and “great friendships,” but I’ll confess that I’m growing concerned over the direction this seems to be taking.

Up until now, Trump has held to a hard and fast line, even while showering praise on Kim Jong-un and affording him far more credibility and respect on the international stage than the madman likely merits. The President has insisted that there needs to be verifiable progress on denuclearization before any sanctions relief or other goodies will be coming Kim’s way. Yes, it rankles many of us to see one of the more murderous tyrants on the planet being feted in this fashion, but the situation simply is what it is. As long as we’re not giving away the store, getting Kim to disarm would be worth a few undeserved praises.

But the clock is ticking, and President Trump is no doubt keenly aware that it’s still possible he might be a one-term president. If he’s going to make this happen, the process will need to start soon. He also prides himself on being a big deal maker. (It’s basically his signature claim to fame.) I’m starting to wonder if the President isn’t getting ready to toss in some sweeteners to prod Kim into action. If so, Kim’s family has demonstrated repeatedly that they’re willing to talk the talk until they actually get some relief and then find an excuse to turn around and bail out on the agreement.

If that happens this time it will be a massive embarrassment to Donald Trump, basically resetting the game board back to when Kim was firing off missiles and detonating nukes. Kim Jong-un has yet to do anything to prove that he merits the sort of trust he’s asking for, and I sincerely hope that President Tump keeps holding his feet to the fire and demands IAEA inspections and verifiable proof of progress on denuclearization before beginning any sanctions relief or other normalization of North Korea as a legitimate actor in the international community.

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