President Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un were all smiles at the summit, agreed to written terms and some unwritten ones, and publicly lavished praise on one another, and a veteran Cold War expert is concerned about what the meeting will mean going forward.
“It could be the triumph in personal chemistry over hard reality,” said Center for Security Policy President Frank Gaffney, who also served as a Defense Department official in the Reagan administration.
He says relying on personal chemistry with dictators doesn’t have a successful track record.
“Often times it doesn’t work out very well, particularly in the case of ruthless and wholly unreliable totalitarians,” said Gaffney.
Trump and Kim agreed to four written points and two that did not make it into the formal document. They agreed to pursue new and peaceful relations with one another and for the Korean Peninsula. Kim agreed “to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” although no specifics were discussed to verify he is making good on the promise. And North Korea will begin sending home the remains of Americans lost during the Korean War.
In addition, Kim will dismantle elements of his missile program, and the United States will suspend joint military exercises with South Korea.
Gaffney is not impressed.
“I’m concerned about the gap between what was indicated would be coming out of this meeting and what actually has in terms of deals,” he said.
Gaffney is not at all happy to see Trump scrap the military exercises or embrace the North Korean, Russian and Chinese characterization of those exercises as “provocative.”
Gaffney says the defensive exercises are designed to respond to North Korean aggression. And he says it will be very hard to start them up again if North Korea starts behaving badly again.
“I fear it might make it very hard to restart those exercises should the need arise – and I think it will – especially given the South Korean government’s desire to dispense with them altogether,” said Gaffney.
In addition to wanting a way to verify North Korea’s supposed commitment to dismantling its nuclear program, Gaffney says it’s hard to “un-invent” a nuclear program and put the genie back in the bottle. He also implores Trump not to make the Korean Peninsula “safe for conventional war.”
“This (agreement) doesn’t solve the problem, and I don’t think President Trump does either. I think he thinks that it is evidence of commitment on the part of Kim Jong Un that has thus far not been evident,” said Gaffney.
Gaffney is very pleased that Trump neither relaxed sanctions or made any apparent promises to do so, meaning the maximum pressure campaign is still in place. However, he says Trump needs to get tougher on China over its renewed efforts to circumvent the sanctions.
Perhaps most concerning to Gaffney is Trump’s effusive praise of Kim, publicly stating it was a great honor to meet with the North Korean dictator and stating that the man who punishes any dissent with prison or death “loves his people.”
“I consider him to be one of the world’s most horrific tyrants, and it’s troubling that we find ourselves having to deal with him,” said Gaffney, noting that the issue is on Trump’s plate because the past three administrations failed to address it effectively.
Nonetheless, he is not a fan of Trump’s kind words.
“It is totally regrettable and undesirable in the extreme to be signaling anything other than the way he treats his people is unacceptable,” said Gaffney.
“Any nation that is so horrifically indifferent to the suffering of its own people is not one that I would trust with the safety of ours,” he added.