BRANDON J. WEICHERT | THE WEICHERT REPORT
The American media is yet again on the war path against President Donald Trump. To be fair, I can understand how some people would be turned off by things that the president has said or done. While I disagree with them, I do concede that his unorthodox ways can be off-putting to many people–friends and political opponents alike.
Having said that, though, after witnessing the events in Singapore last night between Trump and North Korean strongman, Kim Jong-un, how can anyone not acknowledge that the president has moved the proverbial ball forward on the field of diplomacy as no other American president has managed to do?
When I awoke this morning, I brewed some coffee, turned on the small television in my kitchen, began reading my copy of The Financial Times, and consumed as much caffeine and news updates as possible (as I was glued to the television last night).
The president gave what I believe to have been a stellar–and honest–press conference in which he elaborated some of what happened between he and Kim in their historic meeting.
Naturally, every so-called “expert” (who had no real skin in the game and who, in many cases, were thousands of miles away from the meeting, or were kept far removed from the meeting site in Singapore) insisted that Trump got played.
Ah, you see, gave Kim everything he wanted! The president gave Kim the “victory” of being treated as an equal with the United States! It was a moral victory for a truly pernicious human rights violator, like North Korea!
Some other analysts make the more sophisticated argument that the president did not get any concessions from Kim.
What few acknowledge is that going back to when John Bolton became national security adviser a couple of months ago, the Trump Administration never once intimated that they were going to achieve de-nuclearization at the first meeting in Singapore.
This meeting between the two leaders was an attempt for the two men to “size each other up” before continuing to do business. Anyone who has ever conducted high-level negotiations, such as Trump has, will tell you that it is rare for things to be concluded after merely one meeting. It’s a courting much like dating is. You have to woo each other and engage in the dance before finally deciding to seal the deal.
Had Trump walked out of the meeting, stated that the meeting went well, announced that we were reducing our military presence in the region, and the talks were over, then, yes, these “experts” in Washington would be right to be upset.
But, as I pointed out yesterday, no one in the Trump Administration believes anything truly substantive was about to be accomplished in the first meeting–other than the two leaders getting a proverbial feel for each other. This is, after all, a human process rather than some academic exercise conducted by unfeeling, detached scientists.
For my part, I remain skeptical.
But, as I have long stated, I continue encouraging the administration to press ahead–especially since nothing occurred yesterday that would merit a cessation of talks. Like I wrote last night, the alternative to these talks is war.
And, Kim understands this fact. More importantly, his Chinese and Russian benefactors fully understand this fact.
At the end of the meeting, President Trump announced that he was halting the planned spring military exercises between South Korea and the United States. That sent the “Deep State” Leftists into a tailspin (never mind the fact that former President Barack Obama covertly forced American financial institutions to allow for Iranian state owned enterprises to begin trading in American markets, in order to seal his ill-fated deal with Iran).
With Trump’s pronouncement the foreign policy graybeards insisted that Trump had truly gotten played.
Suspension of Joint-Military Exercises
Anyone familiar with the American military situation in the region will tell you that the suspension of those annual exercises is neither catastrophic nor costly in any meaningful way to the United States, South Korea, or Japan.
While President Trump (sharing what I believe to be the wishes of many Americans) did state that he dreamed of bringing our forces home from the Korean peninsula (where they have remained since the Korean War “ended” in 1953), he did not act on that desire.
Not a single one of the 28,500 U.S. troops have been–or will be–recalled. Further, the American Pacific Fleet continues to rotate into the region. What’s more, there are nearly double that amount of American forces in nearby Japan than there are in South Korea.
If the North were to backslide, believe me, the Americans could just as easily unleash Hell from Japan as much as it could from South Korea (remember, the first Korean War was conducted from U.S. bases in Japan).
Meanwhile, Thailand has been expanding its military relationship with the United States, South Korea, and Japan. Each year they host a major military exercise between the three countries–in which the three allies actively war game about how to fight North Korea.
American nuclear bombers remain based in Guam also. For that matter, Guam remains a military fortress.
The joint-U.S.-South Korean military drills are seen as “provocative” in Pyongyang. And, since there is a real commitment from everyone involved to reduce tensions, there is no real downside to the president’s call for suspending the exercise this year.
South Korean Blues
As for South Korea, the media hyperventilated about how they weren’t consulted about Trump’s suspension of the joint drill.
Frankly, who cares?
Yes, Trump should do a better job of coordinating with South Korea and Japan. Then again, however, when Trump suspended the Singapore summit between himself and Kim, the South Koreans undermined the United States by hosting Kim the following day in a spastic conference in which they professed undying love for their brothers to the north.
Also, while we are allied with the South Koreans, our interests do not necessarily align. More importantly, it’s not as though we undermined South Korea in any serious way. Again, our forces are remaining in place until further notice.
And, the South Korean leadership is desperately committed to fostering amity with Pyongyang. Trump just furthered that goal for them. I suspect the South Koreans are more excited about the prospects of actual peace than they are incensed that Trump didn’t phone them.
The Chinese foreign minister tweeted an announcement almost immediately after Trump claimed that he was suspending the pending annual joint military exercise between South Korea and the United States. The beautiful people in the media argued that this signaled Kim had immediately phoned Beijing and informed them of all that had occurred between Kim and Trump.
China is North Korea’s only ally in the world. China is also North Korea’s only trading partner–and it’s been that way for decades. What’s more, the Chinese and North Koreans share a common historical and cultural bond that stretches back centuries. The fact that Kim called to inform his most important ally on the world stage of the goings-on at the summit is hardly surprising.
What is very surprising is that China did not already know what had occurred–and how clearly worried they are that Kim will get too far ahead of them (and the Russians) in his potential desire to make peace with the West.
Public “intellectuals” continue warning that China stands the greatest to gain from the entente between North Korea and the United States. Yes. If true de-nuclearization occurs and real peace can be fomented, yes, the Chinese will disproportionately benefit. That will have serious geopolitical ramifications (especially since the Chinese seem so intent on challenging the United States for global dominance).
However, China was always going to benefit from anything other than overt warfare between Pyongyang and Washington. Should a lasting peace be established, one can expect for the American troops to begin returning home.
Yet, the last time I checked, Seoul is not San Diego. We are not (or, at least, we’re not supposed to be) colonizers. We operate in foreign countries so long as the legitimate, host governments want us to and, more importantly, so long as the American people want us to be there.
A majority of Americans do not want to see American forces put needlessly in harm’s way. Further, most Americans want peace and they want to see the troops back home where they belong. Again, no one is saying anything about abandoning our position in Japan or giving up on our relationship with countries like Thailand, Vietnam, or other Asian-Pacific states.
So, yes, it is likely that a real peace between the West and North Korea would undermine America’s position in northern Asia, and empower China, by having them reach down and create a new economic and defensive sphere between themselves, Pyongyang, and likely, Seoul.
Get over it.
The World’s Worst Negotiators
As I sat and ingested all of the drivel coming from the Western media, I kept hearing them hit North Korea over its human rights violations. There is no arguing that North Korea’s human rights violations–everything from their evil treatment of American captive, Otto Warmbier, the University of Virginia student who was imprisoned, tortured, and murdered by the North Korean authorities, to Pyongyang’s massive gulag system–are repugnant. As Americans, we will not sit idly by and ignore the brutality of that regime.
However, there is a time and a place to bring up those problems.
The United States has had North Korea isolated pretty much since the end of the Korean War. Once the Soviet Union collapsed and the Cold War ended, North Korea became even more isolated.
By the 2000s, between the erratic behavior of North Korea’s leaders and the onerous sanctions imposed upon them by the West, North Korea was effectively a pariah in the international system (and had essentially become a Chinese vassal). To have even a chance at making a real deal with the North Koreans, Trump needed to just find some common footing with Kim.
Walking up to Kim and dinging him on what he knows are egregious human rights abuses would have scuttled the meeting (and, again, ensured that the United States and North Korea were headed for war).
This is precisely what the mainstream media pundits wanted. They are breathlessly reaching for any criticism they can find in order to diminish the victory that the entire world enjoyed yesterday (this was not Trump’s victory; this was something that Trump and any sane person in the world benefited from).
Listening to the hand-wringing over how one can never negotiate with a pernicious human rights violator, I am shocked. After all, wasn’t it former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who pioneered opening relations with the bloody-minded regime in Myanmar?
Isn’t it those dyspeptic members of the foreign policy elite who continue lamenting the Trump Administration’s “trade war” with China, a country that runs a national gulag archipelago that is eerily reminiscent of the Soviet Union’s (and North Korea’s)?
What about the human rights violations (which are presently happening) in Iran? Former President Obama dealt with the Iranians, despite the fact that they had slaughtered their own people who had protested a rigged election in 2009.
Bottom line: it’s okay when the Left does it.
My personal issue with the Democrats’ opening up to either Iran or Myanmar was not the fact that they took to the table to talk. Rather, it was that the Democrats really did give away fundamental concessions without ever having enjoyed a reciprocal relationship–especially in the case of Iran.
A Tale of Two Deals
With the Iran Deal in particular, the Obama Administration negotiated in total secrecy, only unveiling it to the world after all had been said-and-done. Just when it couldn’t get any worse, the Obama Administration refused to allow the Iran nuclear deal to go before the Senate for a vote.
Instead, they opened up that which they had negotiated to the Foreign Relations Committee, allowing for the Senate to attach recommendations to the original agreement and not much else.
Democracy is messy, after all.
Those pesky Senators, had it actually gone to the Floor for a vote, might have insisted on, I don’t know, actual concessions from the Iranians before we plotted a legal and safe pathway for Tehran to achieve nuclear weapons status!
Once the “deal” with Iran was put into place, all of the sanctions were removed, and our greedy European (and Canadian) “allies” happily signed 15-year trade deals with Iran that enriched themselves–and empowered Iran (while legitimizing the regime’s ongoing attempts to annex much of the Middle East).
Trump’s “concession” to North Korea–suspending the military exercise–is not much of a concession at all, as I documented above. What’s more, Trump previously negotiated the return of all known American hostages in North Korea, and he got Kim to destroy the nuclear testing site before an audience of rapt Western journalists (this was the same day that Trump had initially pulled out of the Singapore summit).
In summation, the media and the Left would have you believe that, in order to effectively negotiate with what many (including myself) believe to be an implacable foe, you must first focus on the things you disagree most on. Then, you must concede fundamental national interests as Obama had done with Iran in order to achieve a cheap, short-term, political victory for domestic audiences.
Oh, and you must give up whatever leverage you have over that rival state, in order to allow for that state to continue pursuing WMD; to continue allowing for them to threaten you and your allies; and to make way for your allies to do business with that intractable foe–thereby empowering them and weakening you.
Trust, But Verify
Now, for the skeptical bit.
I remain unconvinced that Pyongyang will fully de-nuclearize. After all, North Korea is one step away from achieving a fully functional nuclear arsenal. In 18 months, unless they can prove they have totally suspended their nuclear weapons program, the North will have the capability to produce reliable intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) that can reach the United States.
At that point, should we have continued on the previous path of brinkmanship and isolation, Pyongyang would have most assuredly launched a massive war to retake South Korea, and to harm the United States. Now that the two leaders have met and appear to like each other, it is possible–only possible–that greater catastrophe can be avoided.
Trump was right to take this historical moment when Kim presented it to him a few months back. We must continue urging him on, because every single person in the world benefits from these talks being successful. But, we must always keep in the backs of our minds, that Kim will likely achieve what he has long desired: nuclear weapons. From there, the question becomes, how will the United States respond–and what will the North do with them?
With the two leaders talking–and the Chinese understanding the ramifications of an American invasion of North Korea–it seems unlikely that, irrespective of whether North Korea achieve nuclear weapons capability, the North will push their proverbial luck with a nuclear war against the world.
Instead, they might choose to take Donald Trump up on his offer to have Western firms redevelop North Korea into a vacation destination (which, sounds awesome, if it can really happen).