Steven P. Bucci
Trump should be given a little breathing room to see if he can grow the four points into something concrete and substantial.
The Singapore Summit between United States President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is over. It was definitely historic. But was it good?
The critics have no doubt it wasn’t. “Trump met with Kim without preconditions!” “Nothing but a photo op!” they sneer.
Not so fast!
It is true that the official summit statement has only four very general points and is shy on details. But did anyone really expect a lot more out of the first meeting ever of this sort? If much more had come out, it wouldn’t have been a diplomatic coup—it would have been Biblically miraculous.
The Trump team went into the process with eyes open. They studied all the failed attempts of Trump’s predecessors. They should be given a little breathing room now, to see if they can grow those four points into something concrete and substantial.
The team President Trump has assembled—Mike Pompeo at the State Department, John Bolton at the National Security Council and, looming quietly in the background, Jim Mattis at the Department of Defense—comprises precisely the sort of deputies needed to deal effectively with Kim Jong-un. They are smart, tough, and cautious. They are the antithesis of reckless and do not have a naive view of human nature.
Their strong collective stances, together with Kim’s weak economy, are what brought North Korea to the table. If they plot the right course, they may be able to keep him there and produce progress. Again, time will tell. America should give them that time.
Now, it is not all sunshine and flowers. Kim’s long history—personal and familial—of game-playing and deception mandate great caution and a significant dose of skepticism. Team Trump showed a clear willingness to walk away at the first sign of game playing—as they did when Kim didn’t send his preparatory team to Singapore as agreed.
When Trump pulled the plug, Kim was spooked and went running to the South Korean president to get things back on track. There is no reason to believe that the U.S. will not do that again if North Korea tries to pull an Iranian “goal post sliding” routine, as they did with former American Secretary of State John Kerry.