(CNN)Never shy about taking credit, President Donald Trump twice recently claimed to have solved a problem that turned out to still be a problem.
He wanted the problem of North Korea’s nuclear weapons to be solved after his historic meeting with Kim Jong Un last month, and he wanted the problem of children separated by the US government from their parents to be solved with the swipe of his pen on an executive order.
But weeks later, the North Korean nuclear threat still very much exists, and the problem of children separated from their parents has worsened as the US government clearly does not know exactly how many children it has or how to get them back to their parents.
These are unrelated stories, obviously, but they share what’s become a truism of White House — which is that Trump likes to take credit for things he hasn’t quite accomplished. The details will come later.
Trump touts North Korea denuclearization
It’s not unlike the famous old quote attributed to Vermont Sen. George Aitken, a Republican, who put forward a plan for the US in Vietnam in 1966. The United States should declare victory and get out, he’s been quoted as saying. Whether Aitken said it that way or not and what exactly he meant has been debated.
Trump actually did sort of declare victory on North Korea immediately upon touching down on US soil after the summit in June with Kim.
“Just landed – a long trip, but everybody can now feel much safer than the day I took office,” Trump said on Twitter. “There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea.”
Trump was basking in success of his trip at the time and clearly wanted it to seem as historic as possible.
But his declaration was premature. The agreement he signed in North Korea was more of an entree into figuring out the details. And his administration, since his tweet, has reaffirmed that there is still a nuclear threat from North Korea. Obviously. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo shuttles back and forth to hammer out the hard details. Meanwhile, North Korea’s nuclear program continues.
Trump has not been chastened, however. Most recently, he’s sought credit for not being in the middle of a nuclear war.
“Many good conversations with North Korea-it is going well! In the meantime, no Rocket Launches or Nuclear Testing in 8 months. All of Asia is thrilled. Only the Opposition Party, which includes the Fake News, is complaining. If not for me, we would now be at War with North Korea!”
OK! (Set aside that Trump was the one tempting nuclear war with his previous taunting of Kim. He’s asking for credit for avoiding a war he was inching toward.)
On the subject of the immigrant children, the administration was slow to realize its moral mistake in separating the children from parents at the border. The resulting chaos is just becoming clear.
Trump signs executive order to end family separations
“We’re going to have strong, very strong borders, but we’re going to keep the families together,” he said. “I didn’t like the sight or the feeling of families being separated.”
“So we’re keeping families together and this will solve that problem,” Trump said. And then, just before he signed the executive order, he added, “You’re going to have a lot of happy people.”
He hasn’t said much at all about the issue since then.
But problems became apparent immediately. The executive order sought to detain undocumented families together and it ran afoul of a law that mandated children not be detained indefinitely. And while the stated purpose was to reunite families, it’s not clear that’s happened much at all. In fact, the government this week made clear it had separated even more children than previously thought.
But these new examples are something else. They’re Trump taking credit for the efforts of his own administration before his own policies can be enacted, which is why they feel so premature. He’s trying to take credit for things where no credit is yet deserved.
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(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)
(IF PRIME MINISTER ABE OR THE PEOPLE OF JAPAN ACTUALLY BELIEVE THE WORDS SPOKEN BY THE IGNORANT FOOL DONALD TRUMP OR BY THE MASS MURDERER KIM JONG UN, THEN MR. ABE AND THE PEOPLE OF JAPAN ARE NOT THE WISE PRACTICAL PEOPLE THAT I HAVE ALWAYS BELIEVED THEM TO BE.) (oped by: oldpoet56)
Japan Lowers Readiness of North Korea Missile Alert System
Sunday, 1 July, 2018 – 09:30
A passerby in Tokyo looks at a TV screen reporting news about a North Korean missile launch in September 2017. (Reuters)
Japan decided to ease the level of military readiness of its North Korea missile alert system, a report said Sunday, citing multiple unnamed sources close to the matter.
The report came as Japan finds itself under pressure to soften its hardline stance against Pyongyang following US President Donald Trump’s landmark summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un last month.
Japan’s Self Defense Forces on Friday dropped their program to always deploy Aegis warships in the Sea of Japan (East Sea) that detect and intercept incoming missiles, the Asahi Shimbun reported.
But Japanese forces will remain ready to intercept missiles detected via spy satellite images, the newspaper said.
Japanese defense officials told the Asahi that Tokyo was following in the footsteps of the United States, which has already lowered its alert level in the Indo-Pacific region. Japan has also suspended public evacuation drills simulating a North Korean missile attack.
Japanese defense ministry officials were not available for immediate comment.
Japan has long maintained a tight-lipped stance about its exact defense posture against North Korea, including the locations of the high-tech Aegis vessels.
The outlook of the North’s denuclearization efforts remain unclear at best, with the Washington Post reporting Saturday that Pyongyang plans to keep some of its nuclear stockpile and production facilities while potentially concealing them from the US.
Trump has since the June 12 summit in Singapore buoyantly declared “there is no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea.”
Evidence collected since the historic meeting points to secret production facilities and the development of methods to conceal weapons creation — implying Pyongyang is aiming to hide plans to continue its nuclear program from the US, having made contrary, if ambiguous, commitments to Washington.
Over the weekend NBC News first reported that Pyongyang has in fact recently been increasing fuel production for nuclear weapons at several hidden sites.
The US network, citing intelligence officials, said North Korea’s regime was readying to “extract every concession” from the White House rather than giving up its atomic arsenal.
“There’s no evidence that they are decreasing stockpiles, or that they have stopped their production,” NBC quoted one US official as saying.
“There is absolutely unequivocal evidence that they are trying to deceive the US,” the official said, despite Pyongyang’s recent curtailment of missile and nuclear tests.
The only uranium enrichment spot North Korea has acknowledged publicly exists is Yongbyon — though reports of secret facilities have surfaced.
Experts have voiced fear that Washington may accept a lukewarm deal centered exclusively on Yongbyon that disregards known underground sites.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said he plans to meet with Kim to “flesh out” details of the nuclear disarmament promise, but has insisted the North Korean leader is serious.
“There’s a lot of work between here and there. My team is already doing it. I’ll likely travel back before too terribly long,” the top US diplomat said recently.
“We still need to flesh out all the things that underlay the commitments that were made that day in Singapore.”
US Defense Secretary James Mattis meanwhile has reassured key East Asian allies that the US commitment to Seoul is “ironclad” — despite Trump’s unilateral suspension of military exercises with South Korea and his lauding of Kim as a “talented guy.”
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Despite President Donald Trump’s boast at a rally that he had secured the remains of U.S. troops killed during the Korean War, his secretary of state says North Korea is yet to send any.
Around 7,700 U.S. soldiers remain unaccounted for from the conflict, the majority of whom are presumed dead in North Korea. As the U.S. military moved 100 wooden coffins to the border between North and South Korea in preparation last week, Trump told a rally in Minnesota: “We got back our great fallen heroes, the remains, in fact today already 200 have been sent back.”
Speaking to the Senate Appropriations Committee on Wednesday, Trump’s Secretary of State Mike Pompeo did not confirm the president’s comments, when Senator Cynthia Shaheen raised the issue of the Korean War dead. Shaheen asked on behalf of charity workers who have dedicated years to repatriating the remains of U.S. soldiers missing in action.
“I am optimistic that we will begin to have two opportunities: One is to receive some remains in the not-too-distant future, but then there is a great deal of work with companies like the one you described, nonprofits,” Pompeo said. Asked if this meant that the U.S. had in fact not yet received the remains, Pompeo confirmed that was correct. “We have not yet physically received them,” he said.
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(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES NEWSPAPER OF INDIA)
Why US postponed the 2+2 talks with India
The 2+2 dialogue scheduled for July 6 – the first simultaneous meeting of the Indian defence and external affairs ministers and their US counterparts – was postponed by the US on Wednesday citing “unavoidable reasons”.
US president Donald Trump with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Philippines in November 2017.
It was the sudden “classified travel” of US secretary of state Mike Pompeo that resulted in the last-minute deferral of the so-called 2-plus-2 dialogue between India and the US originally scheduled for July 6, senior Indian officials involved in talks with the US said.
Indeed, the US is keen on the talks and could even be open to shifting the venue for the discussion between the foreign and defence ministers of the two countries to India, they added.
The officials, none of whom wished to be identified, said the dialogue had been postponed because Pompeo has to travel either to North Korea or Russia.
They dismissed theories that it was US concern over Iran (and India’s oil purchases from that country), the purchase of S-400 missiles from Moscow, or bilateral trade issues that resulted in the deferment. A report in the Financial Times said Pompeo was likely to travel to North Korea to discuss the country’s denuclearisation plans.
The Indian embassy in Washington was informed about the postponement of the dialogue by the state department on Wednesday morning with an assurance that secretary Pompeo would himself conveys his regrets to external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj later over phone. Before the state department communication, both countries were preparing for the meeting, with US ambassador to India Kenneth Juster meeting foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale on Tuesday afternoon.
Indian diplomats in the US echoed these views. They, and the Indian officials, pointed to US ambassador Nikki Haley’s meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi during which she said the US would not tolerate Pakistan becoming a safe haven for terrorists. They also pointed to the fact that a US trade delegation led by assistant US trade representative Mark Linscott is currently in Delhi negotiating the way to address bilateral trade concerns. India,for its part, the officials said, has decided to address the Trump administration’s concerns by buying oil and gas worth $4 billion a year from the US and also facilitating the purchase of 300 civilian jets worth $40 billion.
During his meetings with US trade representative Robert Lighthizer and secretary of commerce Wilbur Ross in Washington this month, commerce minister Suresh Prabhu agreed with his hosts that the only way to address trade concerns was through a comprehensive dialogue.
On US concerns over India buying the S-400 missile systems from Russia, South Block officials agreed that “this was not an ideal situation” but said that both sides were open to having a candid discussion given India’s legacy issues.
Although US sanctions against Iran will kick in on November 4, senior Indian diplomats said the US is not threatening India over purchase of crude oil from Tehran; Washington is aware that New Delhi had already cut down its oil intake from the Islamic Republic to 6% of the total oil it imports before the sanctions were lifted when Iran signed its deal with the US when Barack Obama was in power.
Even now, India imports only 18% of its crude oil from Iran. Before the dialogue was postponed, the talks on Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) had recorded forward momentum towards closure by the end of this year and hardware acquisition through the foreign military sales route had been finalized with the two countries involved in advanced Malabar and RIMPAC (Rim of the Pacific) naval exercises.
It has also been decided that both India and the US will closely collaborate on a maritime security architecture through the Indo-PAC Command of the US Navy.
“ India-US relations are multi-faceted and on a vast canvass. It is normal to have differences over some issues. But saying US is threatening India (and that the postponement of the talks is one embodiment of this) is an overexaggeration of the facts on ground,” said a top Indian diplomat dealing with US.
The satellite photos indicate that North Korea is quickly progressing on several adjustments to the Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center.
The improvements include a new cooling water pump house, multiple new buildings, completed construction on a cooling water reservoir and an apparently active Radio chemical Laboratory. It is unclear whether the reactor is still in operation, the report said.
38 North notes that North Korean nuclear officials are expected to proceed with “business as usual” until Kim orders official changes to procedure.
The agreement between Trump and Kim, signed at the historic summit in Singapore earlier this month, commits the U.S. to “security guarantees” in exchange for a denuclearized Korean peninsula. Critics said that the deal was unspecific and gave too much to North Korea without securing anything for the U.S. in return.
Almost exactly one year ago, North Korea returned an imprisoned 22-year-old American college student to his family in the United States. It was not a happy reunion.
Otto Warmbier, whom the North Koreans had imprisoned for more than a year, arrived in a coma and died a few days later — spurring President Donald Trump to rail against the “brutality” of a North Korean government that lacked “basic human decency.” Trump gradually focused his attacks on the regime’s leader, Kim Jong Un, calling him a “sick puppy” and a “madman who doesn’t mind starving or killing his people.”
In Singapore this week, Trump warmly embraced that so-called madman.
He called Kim a “smart” and “funny guy” who “loves his people.” He predicted the two of them would have a “terrific relationship.” Trump told reporters that human rights had come up only briefly, but he gave no indication that he had confronted Kim about Warmbier’s death, whose precise cause remains unclear.
Still, Trump described what happened to Warmbieras a catalyst for the sudden, if uncertain, rapprochement between America and North Korea, saying the University of Virginia student “did not die in vain.”
Trump’s public turnabout on Kim and his regime’s atrocious human rights record was among the most dizzying developments of the past 48 hours, which saw the two leaders meet in Singapore for an unprecedented nuclear summit. It dismayed lawmakers, human rights activists and others who — while supportive of diplomacy — fear that Trump went overboard in his flattery of Kim to the point of normalizing his rule.
“Kim’s gulags, public executions, planned starvation, are legitimized on the world stage,” Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut raged on Twitter. “What the hell?”
“Talking to dictators is one thing; embracing them is another,” former Vice President Joe Biden said in a statement, denouncing “the horrendous human rights abuses North Korea’s leaders perpetrate against their own people.”
“It was really over the top and excessive,” added Sarah Margon, Washington director for Human Rights Watch.
Amid the outrage is the question of what, practically speaking, Trump could have accomplished.
Past American presidents have pressed Middle Eastern and Asian autocrats over lists of political prisoners numbering in the dozens or hundreds. Kim has imprisoned many thousands of people for what amount to thought crimes, and political executions are commonplace.As a self-proclaimed supreme ruler, it may be nearly impossible for him to concede that he has governed in anything but a judicious way.
Some activists nevertheless argued that Trump could have used his interaction with Kim to win a broad gesture such as granting the United Nations access to his forced labor camps, and that if Kim agreed, it would have bolstered the credibility of his pledge to denuclearize. But Kim offered no hint that he is prepared to address the subject, and a joint statement he and Trump signed after their meeting made no mention of it.
Kim’s totalitarian regime may be the world’s cruelest, with practices reminiscent of the Nazis and the Soviet Union under Josef Stalin. The government, run by Kim’s father and grandfather before him, is believed to keep as many as 100,000 people— quite possibly more — in gulags and other detention sites, many in slave-like conditions. Defectors describe a terror state with zero tolerance for dissent, in which entire families are often punished for the actions of one member.
The young Kim — thought to be in his early- to mid-30s — has ruled just as ruthlessly as his father, who died in 2011. He’s alleged to have consolidated power by having an uncle executed — reportedly by anti-aircraft guns — and ordering his half-brother’s murder with nerve agent in a Malaysian airport.
Few observers expected Trump to challenge Kim vigorously on human rights. The subject in general hasn’t been a priority for the Republican president.
Just a few months ago, however, North Korea was an exception to that rule: Throughout 2017, as Trump ramped up sanctions on Pyongyang, he repeatedly highlighted the “depraved” Kim regime’s human rights abuses.
During a visit to South Korea last fall, Trump denounced the “horror of life” across the border, saying that people “would rather be slaves than live in North Korea.” In January, Trump invited to his State of the Union address Ji Seong-ho, a North Korean amputee who’d fled the country on crutches that he raised in defiance as Trump hailed his bravery on national television.
And by all accounts, Trump was genuinely distressed by the fate of Warmbier, whom the North Koreans held captive for 17 months for allegedly trying to steal a propaganda poster from a hotel wherehe was staying during a visit. (In a statement Tuesday, Warmbier’s family said: “We appreciate President Trump’s recent comments about our family. We are proud of Otto and miss him. Hopefully something positive can come from this.”)
But Trump is a real estate mogul who puts great stock in personal relationships, and he appears to have decided it’s more productive to be nice to a ruthless autocratalready accustomed to being treated like a god.
When asked by Voice of America’s Greta Van Susteren how Kim reacted when Trump raised human rights, Trump said: “Very well,” before acknowledging it was only a small part of the conversation. Trump went on to indicate that the reason Kim has been a “rough guy” is because that’s the only way his family has known how to rule.
“He’s doing what he’s seen done,” Trump said, suggesting that Kim can change. “He’s smart, loves his people, he loves his country. He wants a lot of good things, and that’s why he’s doing this.”
Although Trump is the first sitting president willing to meet face-to-face with a North Korean leader, other U.S. presidents have sat down with autocrats from friendly and adversarial countries alike.
Former President Richard Nixon made history when he met China’s Mao Zedong in February 1972. Trump’s immediate predecessor, Barack Obama, met with Cuba’s Raúl Castro. Plenty of U.S. presidents have met, and even held hands, with the monarchs who’ve led Saudi Arabia.
James Carafano, a foreign policy analyst with the Heritage Foundation, said thatin the long run the United States must engage North Korea on its human rights practices but that diplomacy at this stage requires prioritization.
“In good U.S. diplomacy human rights is always on the menu. That doesn’t mean it’s always the first course,” Carafano wrote in an email.
Several U.S. lawmakers, including top Democrats, sent out carefully crafted statements that either didn’t raise or made scant mention of human rights — reflecting a widespread belief that ridding North Korea of its nuclear weapons through diplomacy is a much higher priority.
“We must remain sober about who Kim Jong Un is: a brutal dictator who has killed his family, overseen campaigns of mass murder and starvation, and masterfully manipulated his rivals on the global stage,” Rep. Eliot Engel of New York, the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said at the end of a lengthy statement.
One concern is that Kim — who rarely leaves North Korea and has limited diplomatic experience — will take Trump’s lack of emphasis on human rights as a sign of American indifference to how he treats his people.
Amnesty International spearheaded a letter to Trump in advance of the summit urging him to seize the opportunity this week to ask Kim for immediate positive moves on human rights. Francisco Bencosme, who handles Asia-related issues for Amnesty, stressed that it’s not known exactly what Trump said to Kim about human rights, but it doesn’t appear the president took a strong stance.
Bencosme said Trump could have asked Kim to give U.N. officials access to North Korean prisoners, or urged him to help reunite North and South Korean families torn apart by the Korean War. Such moves would have been “a way of opening up the aperture on human rights issues,” Bencosme said.
And such moves are not without precedent.
The Obama administration’s outreach to Myanmar, long an isolated, pariah regime, included requests that the government free hundreds of political prisoners to help demonstrate its seriousness about improving ties with the United States. That led to freedom for at least 1,500 people, including some very prominent opponents of the junta that had run the country. But even within the Obama administration there were fierce debates over how much to push Myanmar on human rights.
When asked by a reporter Tuesday whether he had “betrayed” the people trapped in North Korea’s gulag system, Trump grew defensive — then suggested those prisoners should think long-term.
“I think I’ve helped them because I think things will change,” Trump said. “That large group of people that you’re talking about — I think ultimately they are going to be one of the great winners as a group.”
Asked about Warmbier, Trump said the college student’s tragic death had played a pivotal role in bringing about the summit — even though he had not previously mentioned it as a reason for his diplomatic push with Kim.
“I think without Otto, this would not have happened. Something happened from that day. It was a terrible thing. It was brutal. But a lot of people started to focus on what was going on, including North Korea,” Trump said.
“I really think that Otto is someone who did not die in vain.”
“The only thing that Kim has done is suspend testing of weapons, that’s not giving them away,” said Bruce Bechtol, a professor of political science at Angelo State University who has authored several books on North Korea.
North Korea had declared earlier this year that since the country had satisfactorily achieved all it wanted with regard to its nuclear program, it would suspend its tests. Since then, it has closed down two test sites. Trump announced on Tuesday that Kim had informed him that he would be shutting down a third, one that tested missile engines.
Stunning press conference
But perhaps the most stunning moment of the summit came after Kim had left the summit venue. In a freewheeling press conference lasting more than an hour, Trump was pressed by reporters to elaborate on the security guarantees he could provide to North Korea. In response, Trump pointed to the presence of nearly 30,000 US troops in South Korea, something that has long irked not only North Korea, but also its biggest backer: China.
“I want to get our soldiers out. I want to bring our soldiers back home,” Trump said.
While the US President qualified that a troop withdrawal was “not part of the equation right now,” he made it clear that it could be, in the future.
And to the apparent surprise of South Korea, Trump promised to halt what he called “the war games” — joint military exercises with South Korea — that North Korea has long regarded as a provocation. They were expensive, inappropriate — and “provocative,” he said.
Trump: We will stop ‘war games’01:21
To Korea-watchers, the commitment to suspend these regular training drills would raise questions about the continued presence of US forces in the region.
“If we have a force of 28,500 military personnel that does not conduct training, then we may as well bring them home and this is what I fear from President Trump’s comments that war games cost a lot of money and South Korea does not pay sufficient funds,” said David Maxwell, a retired US Army Special Forces colonel and a fellow at the Institute of Korean American Studies. “A force that does not train is of no value to deterrence and no value to war fighting and does a disservice to those military personnel and our national security.”
Low expectations on human rights
There were few expectations that Trump would confront Kim on the many issues North Korea faces, like its appalling human rights record, the North Koreans who slave in labor camps, the kidnapped foreign nationals from South Korea and Japan, and beyond, its arsenal of medium and short range missiles.
Trump: North Koreans in prison camps are ‘winners’
Those have been high on the list of priorities for North Korea’s neighbors including Japan and South Korea. The leaders of both countries spoke to Trump while he was in Singapore before he met with Kim to ensure their fears were firmly in Trump’s mind when he spoke to Kim Jong Un.
As he spoke to reporters, Trump rejected the suggestion that even by meeting with Kim, he’d given the young leader a win.
“It’s not a big deal to meet,” he insisted.
Experts watching the talks disagreed.
“Throughout the tenure of Kim Jong Il [Kim Jong Un’s father], a meeting with a sitting US president was the ultimate sign of the country’s international recognition,” said Catherine Dill, a research associate at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies.
How North Korea got its nuclear program01:16
“Through parsing North Korean state media during Kim Jong Un’s tenure, North Korea plainly seeks the legitimacy that a summit might confer. I think it would only be more priceless for Kim Jong Un if President Trump was coming to North Korea.”
That, by the way, was a possibility Trump told reporters he would consider. He also said he would “absolutely” invite Kim Jong Un to the White House.
On the North Korean laborers, Trump said: “I think I’ve helped them,” adding: “Not much I can do right now, but at some point. I think they are one of the great winners today.”
On human rights, Trump steered the conversation to the matter of the remains of American servicemen missing in action and presumed dead from fighting during the Korean War. About 5,300 of the nearly 7,800 U.S. troops who are still unaccounted for from the 1950-53 war were missing in North Korea. “Human rights were discussed and will be discussed in the future,” Trump said. “What was also discussed in great detail and I must have had countless calls and letters, they want the remains of their sons back. I asked for it today and I got it.”
Little that wasn’t in past statements
The document Trump and Kim signed had little of the detail that past agreements with North Korea had laid out. It echoed statements already agreed to by North Korea when Kim Jong Un met with South Korean President Moon Jae-in last April.
Tuesday’s communiqué said that North Korea “commits to work towards the complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.”
North Korea, South Korea Meet to discuss summit
In contrast, the agreement signed in 2005 between North Korea and the US, China, Japan, Russia and South Korea, committed Pyongyang “to abandoning all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs and returning, at an early date, to the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons and to IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] safeguards.”
“The North Koreans have given nothing so far, while the Americans on the other hand have given Kim Jong Un a summit with the US president,” said Andrew O’Neil, the dean of research at the Griffith Business School in Australia.
“Whatever happens from now, Pyongyang comes out of this looking like it’s scored a major victory. It’s an instructive and compelling lesson on how weak states can achieve asymmetrical outcomes if they are prepared to stand tough against materially stronger powers,” he said.
South Korea: North Korea committed to denuclearization
The White House told reporters Tuesday that it had largely agreed to North Korea’s demand for parity in all aspects of the summit, from the number of officials during the bilateral meetings to the number of US and North Korean flags side by side during the arrival ceremony. The images of the six US and six North Korean flags in the background of the Trump-Kim handshake will undoubtedly be used by North Korean propaganda to suggest the US and North Korea are on level footing, another boost to Kim’s legitimacy at home.
The North Koreans have spent decades negotiating with the West, and have studied the Trump White House and were prepared for this meeting, and it showed, said Jean H. Lee, director of the Hyundai Motor-Korea Foundation Center for Korean History and Public Policy.
“To see President Trump and Kim Jong Un shaking hands warmly and chatting so easily was both stunning and chilling,” she told CNN. “It’s a powerful moment that augers a change in the tense relationship between these two countries. But it also legitimizes the path Kim took to get here: Building and testing illicit nuclear weapons that have the potential to wreak unimaginable destruction.”
For Kim Jong Un, this momentous day was one for North Korea’s history books that won’t require exaggeration.
CNN’s Jeremy Diamond contributed to this report
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Watch the video shown before the Trump-Kim news conference
Before the news conference President Trump held at the end of his June 12 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, a propaganda-style film was played.(The Washington Post)
Reporters crowded into a Singapore auditorium Tuesday, expecting President Trump to walk out and announce the results of his historic meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Suddenly, two huge screens on either side of the empty podium came to life. Soaring music boomed over the speakers, and the reporters were bombarded with a montage portraying North Korea as some sort of paradise.
Golden sunrises, gleaming skylines and high-speed trains. Children skipping through Kim Il Sung square in Pyongyang. North Korean flags fluttering between images of Egyptian pyramids, the Taj Mahal and the Lincoln Memorial.
In a split-screen shot, Kim Jong Un waved to an adoring crowd while President Trump stood beside him with his thumb in the air. The pair appeared over and over again, like running mates in a campaign video.
The film went on like this for more than four minutes, with brief interludes of missiles, soldiers and warships interrupting the pageantry. Some journalists, unable to understand the Korean-language narration, assumed they were watching one of Pyongyang’s infamous propaganda films. “What country are we in?” asked a reporter from the filing center.
They are playing a propaganda video before Trump presser. Not kidding. What is happening??!!
But then the video looped, playing this time in English.And then Trump walked onto the stage and confirmed what some had already realized.
The film was not North Korean propaganda. It had been made in America, by or on the orders of his White House, for the benefit of Kim.
“I hope you liked it,” Trump told the reporters. “I thought it was good. I thought it was interesting enough to show. … And I think he loved it.”
The crowd sounded skeptical. Some wondered if Trump had not, in fact, just provided U.S.-sanctioned propaganda to one of the country’s oldest adversaries.
But as the president explained it, the video was more like an elevator pitch. It was the type of glitzy production that Trump might have once used to persuade investors to finance his hotels, and now hoped could persuade one of the most repressive regimes in the world to disarm its nuclear weapons and end nearly 70 years of international isolation and militant hostility to the United States.
The nearly five-minute movie even had its own Hollywood-style vanity logo: “A Destiny Pictures Production,” though a film company by the same name in Los Angeles denied any involvement in making it, and the White House has not yet responded to questions about it.
“Of those alive today, only a small number will leave a lasting impact,” the narrator said near the beginning, as alternating shots of Trump, Kim and North Korean pageantry flashed on the screen. “And only a very few will make decisions or take actions to renew their homeland, or change the course of history.”
The message was clear: Kim had a decision to make. Then the film progressed from grim black-and-white shots of the United States’ 1950s-era war with North Korea into a montage of rose-colored parades and gold-tinted clouds.
“The past doesn’t have to be the future,” the narrator said. “What if a people that share a common and rich heritage can find a common future?”
The same technique repeated even more dramatically a minute later in the film, when the footage seemed to melt into a horror montage of war planes and missiles bearing down on North Korean cities — much like the apocalyptic propaganda videos Pyongyang had produced just a few months ago, when Kim and Trump sounded as if they were on the brink of nuclear war.
But in Trump’s film, the destruction rewound itself. The missiles flew back into to their launchers, and a science fiction-like version of North Korea took its place — one of crane-dotted skylines, crowded highways, computerized factories and drones, all presided over by a waving, grinning Kim.
“You can have medical breakthroughs, an abundance of resources, innovative technology and new discoveries,” the narrator said, the footage more and more resembling a Hollywood movie trailer as it built to its finale:
“Featuring President Donald Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un in a meeting to remake history,” the narrator concluded, as Korean words flashed on a black background: “It is going to become a reality?”
Haven’t seen this before: Before POTUS comes out for press conference, WH shows a Michael Bay-esque video showing Trump and Kim, military weapons, bombs
The reporters had many questions.
“Do you now see Kim Jong Un as an equal?” asked a Time magazine correspondent.
“In what way?” Trump asked.
“You just showed a video that showed you and Kim Jong Un on equal footing, and discussing the future of the country.”
The president may have misunderstood the question, as he referred in his answer to his closed-door talks and a few carefully negotiated photo ops with Kim — not the U.S.-made video that presented the totalitarian autocrat as a hero.
“If I have to say I’m sitting on a stage with Chairman Kim and that gets us to save 30 million lives — it could be more than that — I’m willing to sit on a stage, I’m willing to travel to Singapore, very proudly,” Trump said.
“Are you concerned the video you just showed could be used by Kim as propaganda, to show him as …”
Trump cut the question off. “No, I’m not concerned at all. We can use that video for other countries.”
The president was more talkative when discussing how Kim had reacted to the video, which Trump had presumably played for him during a brief, private meeting hours earlier.
“We didn’t have a big screen like you have the luxury of having,” Trump said. “We didn’t need it, because we had it on cassette, uh, an iPad.
“And they played it. About eight of their representatives were watching it, and I thought they were fascinated by it. I thought it was well done. I showed it to you because that’s the future. I mean, that could very well be the future. And the other alternative is just not a very good alternative. It’s just not good.”
International reviews of the video were decidedly mixed.
“Schlocky” — Vanity Fair.
“Odd.” — The Canadian Broadcasting Corp.
“One observer dismissed it as ‘a word salad topped with gratuitous appeasement of a monstrous regime,'” the South China Morning Post reported.
The Daily Mail noted that as the narrator described North Korea’s glorious future of technology and international investment, the video showed stock footage of the Miami Beach shoreline, not far from a Trump-owned hotel. The Spectator called the whole sequence “real-estate politik” — which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.
“The text reads like some godawful martial-arts movie trailer crossed with a corporate advertisement for an ambitious construction project,” Freddy Gray wrote for the British newspaper. “But clearly, in some peculiar way, it works.”
The president acknowledged that some of the film’s imagery may seem far-fetched. North Korea is mired in poverty, internationally isolated, and has been mismanaged for decades by a family of dictators — Kim, his father and grandfather.
“That was done at the highest level of future development,” Trump told the reporters in Singapore, as if he had just offered Kim a multi-tiered vacation package. “I told him, you may not want this. You may want to do a much smaller version. … You may not want that, with the trains and everything.”
He waved his hands. “You know, with super everything, to the top. It’s going to be up to them.”
And then, in his usual style, Trump was thinking out loud about the “great condos” that might one day be built on the “great beaches” of North Korea.
“I explained it,” he said. “You could have the best hotels in the world. Think of it from the real estate perspective.”
As the screens above Trump emphasized, he certainly had. Anne Gearan, Min Joo Kim and Philip Rucker contributed to this r
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Kim said that it is obvious to North Koreans that the government of Kim Jong Un is lying to the people about the country’s situation and its reality.
The one thing it is impossible for North Koreans to understand, however, is how big the difference in prosperity is between their country and developed nations like the US and South Korea.
North Koreans understand that their government regularly lies to them and feeds them propaganda that contradicts their current situation, but few understand the true discrepancy between their country and the outside world, according to North Korean defector Kim Young-il.
Kim, the 39-year-old founder of People for Successful Korean Reunification (PSCORE), escaped North Korea when he was 19 years old. PSCORE is a nonprofit that promotes reunification, raises awareness about human rights issues in North Korea, and helps defectors adjust to life in South Korea.
In 1997, Kim and his father left the country in the midst of a four-year-long famine and economic crisis that some estimates suggest claimed the lives of between 240,000 and 3.5 million North Koreans, out of a population of 22 million.
The dire situation made it obvious to North Koreans at the time that the government was not telling the truth about country, Kim told Business Insider in a recent interview. Kim, whose organization helps defectors escape North Korea and China and assists them once they reach South Korea, said that, even now, the situation is much the same; North Koreans know their government is lying.
“The people know these are all lies because it’s obvious. When the government says, there is prosperity in terms of food and rice, we see it ourselves and see that there is a drought and there is no food for us,” Kim said.
“When they see that what they say doesn’t match with what is actually happening, they understand the government is lying.”
The one thing that North Koreans can’t know, according to Kim, is the actual disparity between the country and other nations like the US, South Korea, or China.
“They know [those countries are more prosperous and developed], but they don’t know at what level and how different the countries are. They have no frame of reference. All the government says are lies, Kim said. “They have no way to obtain information about what South Korea or the United States look like.”
Kim Jong Un appears shrewd. China is stronger. And U.S. allies know not to trust Washington.
Albert R. Hunt
Donald Trump thinks he’s a great negotiator, a brilliant bluffer whose gut instincts are so stellar that ignorance of history and refusal to deal with substantive complexities are irrelevant.
That’s why he bragged he’d win the Nobel Peace Prize for his genius in getting North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons. Except, of course, it didn’t. It’s good his Singapore summit with Kim Jong Un was canceled. The larger picture in this and other major issues is how the American president is remarkably ill-prepared and uninformed.
Incredibly, he might have been outmatched in the June 12 face-off with the “little Rocket Man,” the untested North Korean tyrant. Analysts suggest Kim “has done his homework,” according to Jung Pak, a Brookings Institution scholar who was the North Korea expert at the Central Intelligence Agency and then for the director of National Intelligence. “He’s apparently well read on the issue and pretty comfortable with the technology,” she said.
Pak wasn’t surprised when Trump, after canceling the summit, said the next day that it might be back on. South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Kim held a surprise weekend meeting. A subsequent session now seems likely.
But there’s little reason to believe a U.S. president who governs by bluster and is interested only in whether he gets credit and looks good would be better prepared for any next round. That’s unsettling.
Clearly, the North Koreans played games and were duplicitous; they always do and always are. It’s a brutal, corrupt regime.
Trump and his sycophants claim it was his toughness that scared Kim and forced him to consider negotiations; they say the president showed resolve and guts in walking away.
More likely, this has been Kim’s long-range plan for several years, as Robert Carlin, a former diplomat and intelligence official who has been to North Korea dozens of times, told the Washington Post’s David Ignatius. Kim effectively built up his nuclear arsenal, ignoring threats from Trump and others, and giving himself enough leverage to start to backtrack a bit. The regime supposedly dismantled one its nuclear testing sites last week.
Without question, the economic sanctions, begun under President Barack Obama and toughened by Trump, pressured this economic basket case of a country. And more important than Trump’s “fire and fury” rhetoric was a new South Korean administration willing to deal with its seven-decade-old enemy; a war on the peninsula would topple Kim but at a cataclysmic price.
Trump, being Trump, didn’t have the decency to give the South Koreans advance notice of his plans to cancel the summit. This is a pattern. He surprised our close ally when he impulsively announced he would meet with Kim, though no preparations had been made.
Trump’s hawkish national security adviser John Bolton, eager to sabotage any deal, raised the analogy of Libya, which gave up its nuclear weapons and later, with Western support, was toppled. Vice President Mike Pence weighed in similarly.
“Citing the Libyan example was very counterproductive,” notes Charles Armstrong, a Columbia University professor and Korean scholar. Trump’s clamor about de-nuclearization was a misnomer. Kim might make important concessions, but he’s never going to totally give up his most powerful chip; put yourself in his shoes.
Early last year Trump acknowledged, after China’s Xi Jinping had explained it to him, that the Korean situation was more complicated than he had thought. Unfortunately, the president didn’t seem to learn much, alternately crediting and blaming China for North Korea’s behavior. There is mutual contempt between these two neighbors, but they need each other, a reality reinforced by Trump’s bumbling.
History bores Trump – he seems not to know or care much – and he doesn’t read briefing books. A few months ago in the New Yorker, top aides to former national security adviser H.R.McMaster attested to the president’s shallowness. National security briefings, one former staffer said, had to be boiled down to two or three bullet points, “with the syntactical complexity of ‘See Jane run.'”
The great deal maker has yet to make even a decent deal as president; he hasn’t negotiated anything on health care, immigration or infrastructure, and the trade negotiations with China may be a bust.
In Korea, here’s what his gut instincts, with little knowledge, produced: North Korea is a greater nuclear threat than it was 17 months earlier. Kim Jong Un, depicted then as an irrational roly-poly comic-book figure with weird hair, is seen more as shrewd operative. China’s influence on the Korean peninsula and the region has grown. And as American allies, especially South Korea, painfully learned, Washington is not reliable.
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.
Welcome to Diversitas (a Latin name that means...Yes, diversity!) created by a Brazilian girl writing in Portuguese, Spanish, and English about random topics (sometimes not so random) and maybe addicted to parenthesis. *New posts released every Sunday.