Ted Galen Carpenter
The notion that the many entrenched quarrels between Washington and Pyongyang could be resolved at one summit meeting is inherently unrealistic.
There should be a pervasive sense of relief that tensions on the Korean Peninsula have eased dramatically, culminating in the surprisingly cordial atmosphere of the Singapore summit between Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Instead, much of the reaction among Trump’s liberal critics has consisted of sneering and sniping at the results of that meeting. It is another unfortunate manifestation of America’s increasingly dysfunctional political culture. Worse, such a knee-jerk, ideological response can undermine prospects for a lasting, beneficial change in the acrimonious relationship between the United States and North Korea that has plagued the international community for decades.
Critics level various dubious objections regarding the summit. One is that Kim emerged as the clear winner from the talks. Some of the same people who denounced Trump just a few months ago as an unhinged warmonger who would plunge the Korean Peninsula into unimaginable bloodshed now depict him as an ill-prepared amateur that the wily North Korean easily conned.
The United States afforded Kim a huge boost in prestige, the argument goes, by affording him a face-to-face meeting with the president and treating him as an equal. “In his haste to reach an agreement, President Trump elevated North Korea to the level of the United States while preserving the regime’s status quo,” intoned House minority leader Nancy Pelosi. Other congressional Democrats were equally caustic. “What the United States has gained is vague and unverifiable at best,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer groused. What North Korea has gained “is tangible and lasting.”