COMMENTARY: Kim plays Trump on North Korean denuclearization

Ambassador Curtis A Ward

The most recent development on North Korea’s so-called denuclearization, the reality of which has been a matter of extreme skepticism among foreign policy and security experts, undermines U.S. President Donald Trump’s expectations. Trump had convinced himself that he had procured a history-changing agreement with North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un at the ill-conceived Singapore Summit. In Trump’s imagination all of humanity would be grateful to him for saving the world from a cataclysmic nuclear war between the United States and North Korea. He also believed his achievement far outranked all diplomatic triumphs of his predecessors combined in the history of the United States. Some of his friends had vision of a Nobel Peace Prize.

With Kim writing to Trump telling him not to send Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to North Korea for further talks, and publicly criticizing the U.S. for its coercive negotiating style and bullying demands, the non-existent denuclearization negotiation process grounded to a halt.  This predictable outcome to Trump’s folly came as no surprise. Kim had refused also to meet with Pompeo during his most recent visit to Pyongyang. Perhaps it is wishful thinking Trump can now be convinced that he was being played all along by the North Korean leader. With that in mind, there should be concern that the shock of such a realization by Trump may trigger some form of irresponsible reaction from him to cover the failure of what he thought was his greatest diplomatic triumph and geopolitical success.

Trump’s belief that his diplomatic triumph had saved the world from a catastrophe failed to recognize that the eventuality of such a war would have been of his own making. It would have been triggered by his belligerent threats to North Korea. The exchange of personal attacks between Trump and Kim was what raised the threat level in the first place, as both seemed to be inching closer to military confrontation.  Then suddenly, Kim won the first round when Trump granted him a Summit in Singapore. Kim had achieved what his father and grandfather, both of whom led North Korea before him, had sought unsuccessfully with an American President.  He was the first North Korean Leader to have a meeting with an American president.

Trump also made history; he was the first American president to agree to such a meeting. No previous American president would have sat down with a North Korean leader without first pursuing a diplomatic process to achieve detailed undertakings leading to North Korean denuclearization. Such an agreement would have included a detailed road map for each party to follow in order to fulfill agreed on provisions and commitments. Trump’s diplomatic naïveté and narcissistic personality led him to believe that the use of experts-led diplomatic negotiations was not necessary as he was best able at negotiating a deal. He was the only one who believed this but the sycophants around him played along and in the end watched him fail.

While there was broad skepticism that anything of substance would have emerged from the ill-conceived Singapore Summit, the idea of the Summit provided respite from the bellicose rhetoric of both leaders. Ironically, it is Trump’s narcissism and diplomatic naïveté which probably saved the Korean peninsula and perhaps the world from a nuclear war. Trump’s self-aggrandizement and belief in ‘I alone can fix it,’ that he is the greatest deal maker of all time, led him to grant a summit with the North Korean leader. On a handshake, Trump believed he had achieved a goal which had eluded his predecessors; Kim Jong-un would destroy all of North Korea’s nuclear weapons without any preconditions.

Anyone with a modicum of understanding of the history of North Korea’s interrelationships with the United States would have known that the raison d’être for North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons is to guarantee the existence of the country. Without nuclear weapons North Korea becomes vulnerable to destruction by its perceived enemies – the United States and South Korea.

Trump left the Summit trusting Kim’s words that North Korea would denuclearize. The devil would be in the details, except there were no details. Their handshake staged for world media coverage sealed the deal. There is no binding agreement on either party to a detailed road map for denuclearization. Furthermore, only those in Trump’s inner circle of sycophants could believe North Korea would destroy its nuclear arsenal. Considering Pompeo’s background it is inconceivable that he believed North Korea would denuclearize. Yet, as newly appointed Secretary of State he was given the responsibility to see that it happened. He was given ‘basket to carry water.’ One has to assume that he knew that, despite trying to convince Congress and the public otherwise.

No one except the North Koreans knows for sure the extent of its nuclear arsenal. Estimates ranges from 16 to 60. At the time of the Singapore Summit, North Korea floated the idea it had ceased testing of nuclear bomb and missile technology. Trump chose to interpret that to mean North Korea was prepared to give up its nuclear arms technology.  The truth was North Korea having attained an optimum level of nuclear weapons technology and capability no longer had need of further testing. Only a naïve and uninformed individual could believe otherwise. Donald Trump did.

Convinced that he is the best negotiator it is difficult to separate Trump’s naïveté from his narcissistic personality. Trump convinced himself that he had made a deal with Kim. He was played by Kim.

Trump’s newly appointed Secretary of State had not quite settled in at the State Department before the staging of the Singapore Summit. He was required post-Summit to ensure that North Korea denuclearized. He sought to present the most positive possible outcome from the Summit to the American people, the Congress and the world. Those with knowledge of the history of North Korean interactions with the United States were not fooled. Those with an understanding of the geopolitical and strategic objectives of Kim Jong-un were not fooled. One has to wonder whether Pompeo really believed Kim would divest himself of the only insurance he had against the United States just for an appearance on the world stage with the American president.  While that may have lifted Kim’s global image, there was no guarantee of protection for North Korea or diminution of threat to its existence. What makes anyone really believe Kim was so naïve as to trust the mere words of Donald Trump or the military hawks around him?

Trump is left with few face-saving options. One is imposition of sanctions against North Korea. Trump’s recent experience with the Iran sanctions severely impacting Iran’s economy may encourage him to take a similar path. At the end of the day North Korea will still possess nuclear weapons and missile delivery systems. Meanwhile, Trump is still looking for a successful end to this debacle. It’s anybody’s guess what next steps he will take.


Curtis A Ward

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  1. September 3, 2018

    Mr Ward where were you when Bill Clinton gave Kim’s father millions of dollars,Were you hibernating since you are an expert in foreign affairs and what about your Obama,who gave Iran one hundred and fifty billion dollars and got almost nothing in return.Trump gave nothing and all the sanctions are still in place.So what are talking about?

  2. J.john-Charles
    September 3, 2018

    Testing,, Trump is the man for the hour.I have said it over and over again. I am one black man that thinks for himself I am no slave to the democratic party.I am a believer ln Christ and a conservative/ Republican.Amen and amen

  3. J.john-Charles
    September 3, 2018

    You just can’t win…When Kim Was sending missiles over Hong Kong and threatening its neighbors and also threating to attack U.S territory,Trump’s critics said nothing.but when Trump told him not to look for trouble.those suffering with Trump derangement started to call him warmonger,narcissistic etc,Kim told Trump “I have a nuclear bottom on my desk” Trump let him know,
    I also have one, the difference with mine it is bigger and it is working.Again Trump wants nuclear war.

  4. Joseph John
    September 2, 2018

    Why should I follow you on social media. Your point of view indicate that you are a Trumpite. It is not objective. There are two sides. When you said that Kim write Trump to stop Pompeo… Trump acted unitarily
    IF you are right why did Trump say let us talk aboutthis in an effort to continue negotiations. One thing we learn from AMERIANS recently is ere is news and there is FAKE news
    The Russians were in Afghanistan about 20 years ago when they left the “smarter” U S entered. Well they are still there after 17 years with all their money, power,smarts. So you think easterners are not aware of this. You think that they have already forgotten Vietnam.
    North Korea does not depend on the US dollar for international transactions and they cannot blacklist or de-risk them like they are doing to Venezuela . Remember what Juliani said recently……NOT ALL TRUTH IS TRUTH. The truth is America is being made great again ….A GREAT ROGUE NATION.

  5. Joseph John
    September 2, 2018

    Western countries, with their individualistic attitude mind set is that they can always fool Easterners who are mores collective. They like to bow and smile and let you think that you have them over a barrel. The Western pomposity does not fade them. They only pretend that it does.
    So you think that Kim does know how to operate and negotiate from a position of power and strength, or understand how to use diplomatic leverage ? Trump only knows how to use aggression and is a prolific liar so Kim does not trust him. Kim is playing Trump at his own game.

  6. analy thomas
    September 2, 2018

    Perfect peace will only come through one person. Jesus Christ!
    Whether you believe it or not, throw Him out of your daily life or not… on thing for certain is that everyone will bow before Him. Those who have received and regarded Him will remain while others who chose not to acknowledge Him will be cast out.
    It is His will however that everyone repents and turns to Him. The dead cannot praise Him, neither will He find pleasure in the dead. We are here only by grace.. a favor that we do not deserve.
    60 years on this earth is nothing compared to never dying in eternity. Never being sad, sick, hurt….
    Why is man so foolish?
    why? We think that things are not so bad… well things have been bad thousands of years ago…
    look at Sodom and Gomorrah for example. How long Has God been merciful unto us, yet we live as we please.

  7. A_DAMassive
    September 1, 2018

    Why would Kim give up the very element that brought Trump to him in Singapore? Does anyone believe that China would grant the US with a listening post in it’s front door, just like Kennedy did not want the big bad bear in Cuba? Never!

    It was just saber rattling from both camps. Neither wants to give up the lifestyle they currently enjoy by engaging in a Nuclear Armageddon. They planned this whole Singapore shebang to help each other save face in front of the world, because both knew they had taken their back and forth a little too far.

  8. Anon
    September 1, 2018

    Staggering naivety in this commentary.

    “Trump left the Summit trusting Kim’s words that North Korea would denuclearize. ”

    If you’re an analyst that’s worth any salt, and also not just another person that’s perpetually and unconditionally disdainful towards Trump, you’d know that’s nothing more than a cunning way of giving an ultimatum. He got Kim’s “word” that he would denuclearize, and if he hasn’t, then he gains leverage on actually taking actions against NK on the world stage.

    • Gary
      September 2, 2018

      Why are you so distrustful towards Kim Jong-un keeping his promise, isn’t Trump not to be trusted also. If you follow the dots you see a pattern of how the US never always keep their word. The US does not need Kim Jong-un word to denuclearize and if he lies use this as leverage to attack North Korea, the US already know their agenda before meeting Kim Jong-un.

  9. %
    September 1, 2018

    The North Koreans will NEVER give up their nuclear weapons .They saw what happened to Sadam and Ghadafi… Neither of the two nations (USA and N Korea) trust the other.

  10. Shaka Zulu
    September 1, 2018

    Nothing can be solved, made better, progress with leaders wh have self fulfilling goals. Its all about trump, not the world not America. He is using the office of President to advance his crazy selfish goal. Ever so often in huma history human become fearfull then complacent and when that happens men like trump claw to the top and the world go into a tail spin. In Dominica we have a similar leader and despite the demise of the country there are some who will still love them until it is too late. We are witnessing the effects of one of the great moral sin selfishness.

  11. Bring back the kidnapped parrots.
    September 1, 2018

    Kim Jung Putin Trump loves dictators, he wants to be just like them. First thing a dictator does is shut down the news papers and press and establish their own propaganda station. They then say do not believe what you see and hear only believe me because only “I” tell the truth. Kim Jung Putin Trump never has anything bad to say about despots and dictators he admires them.

    • Pragmatik
      September 1, 2018

      “First thing a dictator does is shut down the news papers and press and establish their own propaganda station.”

      Except Trump has not done any of those things or even attempted to. He calls the mainstream media Fake News (because they are) and berates them but that’s it. He was even defending their existence at one of his rallies stating that “I would rather have the fake news than to have people shut down or censored”. So really what is all this about Trump being a dictator? It doesn’t make any sense.

      It’s this whole fantasy of evil dictator Trump that some people have invented and other useful idiots have swallowed wholesale without thinking rationally. It’s all based on emotional appeals (race, gender etc) and senseless rhetoric. Trump has his flaws but he is in no way a dictator.

      What’s even more ironic is that many of the people who hate Trump idolise people like Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro who were actual authoritarians who did all those things they accuse…

      • Jacinta
        September 1, 2018

        Pragmatik, you could not Have said it any better ?.

      • ATKINSON
        September 1, 2018

        I support and agree with pragmatic

      • Gary
        September 2, 2018

        Why are you defending your ignorance with such silly argument by saying quote “First thing a dictator does is shut down the newspapers and press and establish their own propaganda station.” Do you know how nonsensical that sounds. In the world of political Governance, there are Psychopaths, Tyrants, and Dictators, and that is where you need to make a distinction. Trump is a Dictator period, not an evil one or the stereotype.

        I see Trump as a great practitioner of Chaos Magic handled by people we never hear or see in the spotlight. Most of the Trump haters( the electorate) are just caught up in a sinister covert political agenda which is very sophisticated and occult. Then, on the other hand, his followers are being misled. Let us always remember in US Politics everything is planned to happen the way it is.

      • Barbara Saunders
        September 4, 2018

        I love the sentence ” It’s this whole fantasy of evil dictator………..(let’s substitute the name) that some people have invented and other useful idiots have swallowed wholesale without thinking rationally.” Now why does that sound familiar?

        I could swear it was being written in Dominica about some Dominicans.

        I love even more “what’s even more ironic is that many of the people who hate …… idolise …….and …….. who were actual authoritarians who did all those things they accuse…….” Really sounds like the situation in Dominica. Just a different context and personalities.

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