Trump’s Kick-the-Can Diplomacy Gave Rise to a North Korea Propaganda Coup

    Robert E Kelly

    Security, Asia

    U.S. President Donald Trump walks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore in this picture released on June 12, 2018 by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency. KCNA via REUTERS

    The North Koreans got a great propaganda coup out of the Singapore Summit—and America got nothing.

    The debate over the Trump-Kim summit in Singapore has been quite vitriolic. Defenders of President Donald Trump have been out in full force all week defending the deal, and Trump himself has claimed that North Korea is no longer a nuclear threat. Similarly, proponents of engagement have claimed this to be the start of a peace process. In South Korea, the mood is upbeat. South Korean conservatives have been marginalized this year, losing the recent election badly, which was in part a referendum on the peace process. The biggest national papers are resistant, but the wind is decidedly at South Korean president Moon Jae-in’s back. It has been only a small group of Never-Trump hawks and skeptics who have pushed back.

    Much of this sound and fury is curious, because the summit itself produced so little on its own terms. On BBC in the wake of its release, I called it a “nothingburger,” and I still see no reason to revisit that judgment. Defense of the “Sentosa Declaration” rests on the idea that great things are to come. And as Trump has said ever more embarrassing things this week—gushing about Kim Jong-un, ducking human rights, or claiming the North Korean nuclear threat to be taken care of—defenders of the deal have had to promise ever greater benefits we have yet to see. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has predicted major disarmament in the next two years. This is, to be generous, highly unlikely.

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