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Trump and the Future

Helmut Sorge | Posted : September 28, 2018


There they were, the North Koreans, covered by red flags, and more red flags — a Hollywood production indeed. Were the soldiers singing? There was nothing to sing about since they're marching for endless hours, being scrutinized by cameras and bothered by aching pains of hunger, unable to speak and stimulate their voice. The colonel in charge of the marchers may discover some rusty spot on a belt buckle or a truck on parade may run out of fuel - and a night in a military prison may be certain, at very least. Kim Jong-Un, at times we forget, is one of the world’s worst abusers of human rights. North Korea’s 70th anniversary parade was perfect, as a perfect as it can get, unless you are a fanatic, expecting ICB Missiles on parade — the Hwasong 14 or 15.These main actors in the show of national greatness, were missing, yes, AWOL, as soldiers say, absent without leave.

Not exactly true — the absence was a message from Mr. Kim Jong-Un to Donald Trump, who seem to have developed an unexpected friendship. Once a peace treaty is signed to end the Korean War (which had lasted from 1950 to 1953, and cost the lives of 33,000 American soldiers), Trump, you bet, will invite his autocrat to Palm Beach for a game of golf in his local club. Perhaps Trump will invite Tiger Woods as well, who knows ? With the parade free of nuclear symbolism, Mr. Kim wanted to show to the President of the US that his regime is serious about denuclearization — despite his scheming and cunning government. At the summit in Singapore on June 2018, where the project was discussed for three hours, Trump praised Mr. Kim and stated he wanted to forge a special relationship.


The President of the United States seems to have no problem in dealing with this tyrant, or any other for that matter. As Trump tells his voter’s repeatedly, “What you read or hear is not what is really happening.” All media exposures are so called “fake news,” particularly negative stories about the President. If you see the world through Trump’s lenses, soon Mr. Kim will be hailed as the new Mother Theresa of Asia. The Head of State can claim a record (in his not-yet-two-years in the oval office) that he used more than 5,000 invented, twisted, and inaccurate facts in his speeches or interviews. For his immense fandom, Trump may lie as much or as necessary as he may be need, they only expect him to make America Great Again. Conservative republicans do enjoy his style, part bouncer, part TV-reality star, conceited and self-obsessed, expecting to be honored with the Nobel Peace Prize as soon as he signs a deal with Mr. Kim, who in fact, keeps tens of thousands of political prisoners in his infamous concentration camps, as well as having his uncle, a trusted adviser, executed, and his half-brother poisoned at Bangkok airport. Are we to believe such a politician? One promising to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula by 2021, the year the first Presidency of Donald Trump comes to an end? Did the regime not sign a few deals, in 1992 for example, to turn nuclear power into nuclear waste? 


“Sure, he is ruthless,” Trump answered a TV interviewer as he asked why the US President was dealing with him, “...but so are others…I mean plenty of the people I deal with are pretty ruthless people.”
Once Trump tweeted Kim was a “madman, who does not mind starving or killing his people.” Another tweet ensued, accompanied with a public declaration at last year's UN General Assembly where he called Kim a "Little RocketMan,” who was “on a suicide mission for himself and his regime.” Speaking at a rally in Iowa (in January 2018) Trump told his audience that after all he has to give Kim credit for what he has done: “How many young guys, he was like 26 or 25, when his father died, take over these tough generals and all of a sudden he goes in, he takes over and he is the boss, it’s incredible. He wiped out the uncle, he wiped out this one, that one.”

Of course, Trump, who met the despot only once, would get along with him great. “Yeah. He’s very smart, great personality, he’s funny and tough, good negotiator.” However, what of the torture, executions, starvation, oppression? If you want to be feared as a real authoritarian figure mistreatment of unruly citizens has to be one of your pleasurable priorities, Mr. Kim may believe in the usage of heinous camps may aid him in earning respect, and even adored when his hair cut is setting trends among prison guards and judges alike. Nuclear weapons help, many. Last year, Mr. Kim’s nuclear industry added five bombs to the arsenal, 5 plus 20, or 30 ready for action. This year North Korea s nuclear scientists will build six or seven bombs, just in time for denuclearization as well as some intercontinental missiles, which may reach targets on the US main land.

At their summit in Singapore, Donald Trump signed two pages of nonbinding, superficial declarations with Mr. Kim. For Trump, the ability to pull off such a historical meeting, made the media of the world eager to hear his words. The June-mission was accomplished. There was “no longer a nuclear threat” from North Korea. Trust me, Trump knows. Prior to Singapore he did not prepare much; his gut feeling is replacing diplomatic scrutiny. Did he take notes? Are you kidding? As Trump has said, “my memory is incredible.” Not one nuclear bomb had been reduced, not one ballistic missile turned into scrap. The initial 12-second-handshake sealed the deal. Intercontinental ballistic missiles would never take off onto a deadly path toward the US. Trump “got along great” with his opponent, “a very talented person.” His advisers were in shock. His premature declaration was considered even by loyalists a “huge error,” because it was taken as a signal by China and Russia that the crisis was over and they could pursue business as usual with Pyongyang. “I’m shocked at how superficial things have been,” criticized Jung H. Pak, until last year the CIA’s mission leader for North Korea, now at the Brookings Institution, “I think the North Korean’s smell dysfunction and they see dysfunction in the Presidents tweets and his compliments and his willingness to meet again.” Even one of Trumps frequent defenders, Senator Lindsey Graham, indicated on the US news broadcast giant, CBS that he was worried that “the President might have been manipulated by the enemy.” Graham adds that “If they play Trump, we're going to have a war, and they're going to lose it.” 


On June 22, the President returned from reality television to Realpolitik, providing, a “notice” regarding the continuation of the National Emergency with respect to North Korea. The document extended the “Executive Order 13466 of 2008.” Within one year, Trump reaffirmed the current existence and risk of the proliferation of weapons — usable fissile material on the Korean Peninsula constitute an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States, and I hereby declare a national emergency to deal with that threat.” Prior to meeting the young tyrant, who has been educated for a few years in a Swiss boarding school, Trump insulted the “short and fat” leader as a “maniac,” ”sort of wacko,” but North Koreans, the CIA probably briefed Trump, are “not a bunch of dummies.” Perhaps “slightly off the rocker” would be another way to describe mental deficiencies. A few months after winning the US election, Trump declared that he would be “honored” to meet Mr. Kim, whom he described as a “pretty smart cookie.” When the faded Basketball great Dennis Rodman, a buddy of King Jung-un, suggested publicly that Donald Trump was seriously thinking about visiting Pyongyang, Trump reacted by saying Rodman was “either drunk or on drugs,” because Pyongyang would “be the last place on earth” he would want to visit. Now the time has come, possibly. Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un are preparing another summit, the second meeting between them within a year. Perhaps the “Thank you for your nice letter” Trump wrote to the dictator on August 2—“I look forward seeing you soon.” In another message, thanking his newest close friend for the “very warm, very positive letter,” Trump assured Chairman Jung-Un, “we will both prove everyone wrong.” Bruce Klingender, for years CIA branch chief for Korea and now a regional expert at the conservative Heritage Foundation, called the President’s current strategy “the beatification of Kim Jong- un.”


Trump seems convinced that his locker room charm, plus public flattery, will persuade the Asian dictator to make a mega deal, or any deal which will get Trump re-elected and into the history books-or both. The US President, an unrestrained narcissist, apparently believes that in the four months since their first meeting, progress in the negotiations has slowed down. His national security advisor, John Bolton and his Secretary of State, the former CIA boss, Mike Pompeo, are apparently insisting on the US’ initial demands— “complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization,” and, once agreed, a reduction of sanctions. “If we continue to make this all or nothing,” predicted the president of the Council on Foreign relations on CNN, “we are going to have nothing.” When Pompeo went to Pyongyang for the first negotiations after the Singapore summit, the Trump representative declared that he had held “many hours of productive conversations. These are complicated issues, but we made progress on almost all of the central issues. Some places a great deal of progress, other places there’s still more work to be done.”

The secretary of state was hardly airborne and on his way back to the US, North Korea published a statement in which it accused the US to have forwarded “gangster-like” demands. 

“The fragile new diplomacy,” its Foreign Ministry declared, has entered a “dangerous phase that might rattle our willingness for denuclearization. We had expected that the US side would offer constructive measures that would help build trust based on the spirit of the leaders’ summit.” 

The US, it seems, demanded of the regime a full list of its weapons of mass destruction-nuclear, chemical and biological, as well as intercontinental ballistic missiles, and a time table with details on how and when to dismantle them. Supposedly, Washington insisted in its discussions with North Korea that 60 to 70 percent of its nuclear arsenal should be handed over in a six-to-eight months period. Pompeo remained un-rattled by the negative, biting words from the negotiation partners in the north: “If those requests were gangster-like the world is a gangster, because there was a unanimous decision of the UN Security Council about what needs to be done.”

North Korea was, certainly not willing to offer any secrets, without any fundamental concessions by the US In return. North Korea’s priority is to discuss a formal end to the 1950-1953 Korean War, which is still only a truce, and not a peace treaty. Technically the peninsula is still at war. Such a declaration, analysts in the US fear, could give Mr. Kim reason to demand that the US withdraws its 28,500 troops from South Korea while North Korea is still a nuclear power. Yet, South Korea’s leader Moon Jae-In publicly urged the US to declare an end of the Korea war-as an incentive for North Korea to denuclearize.

For all the harsh rhetoric by the regime officials in the North, judged reporter Robin Wright in the New Yorker, they specifically tried to avoid irritating Trump. “We wholly maintain our trust toward President Trump,” the Foreign Ministry stated, and noted that Kim had written to the White House to reaffirm his goal of a “friendly relationship and trust.”

Pompeo, on a recent visit to Tokyo, meeting his Japanese and South Korean counterparts, warned North Korea that “sanctions will remain in place until final, fully verified denuclearization, as agreed to by Chairman Kim, occurs” —  a demand which Pyongyang will hardly accept. South Korean experts though predict that a failure by President Jae-in to coax Leader Kim Jung-un and President Trump to a second meeting, the Korean Peninsula might revert, as the New York Times fears, “to the roiling tensions that put the region on the brink of war last year.”


At their news conference in Pyongyang, Kim Jung-un and President Moon made a “firm commitment to exert active efforts to make the Korean Peninsula free of nuclear weapons and nuclear threat and turn it into a land of peace.” The tyrant’s remarks represented the first time he had made such a commitment verbally before an international audience, represented by the global media. President Trump called the North Korean commitment “very exciting.” In August Pompeo had announced another trip, his fourth, to North Korea, but one day prior to departure the President tweeted that he had asked his Secretary of State to cancel the trip, ”because we are not making sufficient progress with respect to the denuclearization.” A state-controlled newspaper of the North accused the US of “double dealing” and “hatching a criminal plot” against Pyongyang.

Trump suspected that the Chinese were not pushing their allies and neighbors in the North for further compromises anymore since they wanted to punish Washington for the trade war. Kim Jong-un did not receive the American Secretary of State at his last trip to the North Korean capital. “Not at all surprising” for Jean Lee, director of the Korea program at the Woodrow Wilson Center: 

“The North Korean‘s are tough negotiators and they do not give anything up for free. Everything is give or take for them; negotiations are transactional. It has been clear to me from the start that Kim Jong-un would say enough of the right words to get the historic summit in Singapore, then turn around, and demand that the United States denuclearize before North Korea gives up its nuclear weapons.”


North Korea certainly feels it has shown initial good will, including a moratorium missile and nuclear tests. The rogue state has handed over, as promised to Trump in Singapore, the remains of 55 American soldiers who had died in the Korean War; yet, almost 8,000 GIs are still missing. On July 22, the North Koreans did dismantle a rocket launching and testing site near Tongchang. The Sohae satellite launch site was demolished also, as was the entrance to a nuclear test site at Punggye-ri. “The North has gone more than 200 days without a provocation,” noted Vincent Brooks, a US General stationed in South Korea, and a slowdown in the operating tempo of North Korea’s armed forces had been noted by the Pentagon. For almost a year, no nuclear weapons were tested, no ballistic missiles fired. Anti-American propaganda has been removed from huge billboards in the capital. David Kang, director of the University of Southern California (USC) Korean Studies Institute and author of East Asian Security and American Grand Strategy in the 21st Century, maintains North Korea never offered to unilaterally disarm first, with the hope that the United States would do something nice in return.”

The truth: “to survive Kim Jung-un needs those nuclear weapons,” believes Hahm Chaiboug, President of the Asian Institute. “Without the bombs and delivery systems, North Korea becomes a poor backwater country that struggles just to generate electricity.” Diplomacy may only get rockier as the United States and Korea gets deeper into the specifics of how to follow through on the superficial two-page statement signed by Trump and Kim in Singapore, which only states, in one provision, that North Korea is reaffirming its commitment “to work towards the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.” For Donald Trump that was a “very important” and “comprehensive agreement.”

When North Korea’s leader received the South Korean, President Moon Jae-in at Pyongyang for their third meeting, Mr. Kim and Mr. Moon signed a joint statement in which the North Korean dictator agreed to “permanently dismantle” a missile engine test facility and a missile Launchpad in Dongchang-ri in northwestern North Korea, and to allow outside inspectors to watch that process. The Dongchang-ri complex has been a key test center for the North’s intercontinental ballistic missile program. North Korea also is willing to dismantle facilities at its main nuclear complex in Yongbyon, North Korea, if the United States takes “corresponding measures.” The United States, true, has so far, been unwilling to offer concessions, and certainly did not decide to relieve sanctions. Mr. Kim will hesitate to gamble his nuclear weapons away, at the same time though he is eager to lead his nation into a more prosperous future. With sanctions in place and promises made by the leader to his people, that an economic miracle may be on the way, possibly only a tête-à-tête with Trump, pretending without hesitation his admiration for the dictator, may clear the impasse, avoiding a nuclear showdown by the best of friends, Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim.

“Even the same words mean different things to the two sides. For the US ‘denuclearization’ means the North is giving up nuclear weapons, all of them. For the dictator and his generals, it may point towards an arms control agreement in which the two sides bargain over each other’s forces level. Since North Korea has ‘reneged on countless commitments in the past,’” remind the Foreign Affairs authors Robert Jervis and Mira Rapp Hooper, adding that “Washington considers North Korea an ‘insincere actor,’” or, as the Washington Post wrote, “a team practiced in the art of delay and obfuscation.”


Apparently, the nuclear production of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un continues unabated, as satellite photographs suggest. There is evidence that some facilities are expanding. The US is also in possession of photographic prove of Russian vessels linking up with North Korean tankers on the high seas, Nikki R.Haley, US ambassador to the UN just revealed in New York, and illegally loading them with refined petroleum. The US has identified 148 instances of illegal ship-to-ship transfers, allowing the sanctioned country to acquire 800,000 barrels of fuel, far in excess of the 500,000 barrels a year cap. Fuel smuggling is not the only exclusive, illegal, endeavor of the North Korean state, which is evading financial sanctions through use of front companies and diplomats. The UN sanctions committee has noted an increase of efforts by North Korea to supply arms and military equipment to fighters in the Middle East. Russia, the United Nations observed, has blocked recent UN actions aimed at strengthening controls over chemical and biological weapons technology, and has resisted efforts to prevent North Korea’s continues development of intercontinental missiles.

No question, despite the warm words and schmoozing between Trump and Kim Jong-Un, North Korea does not trust the US. They certainly did not forget the Trump threats of “fire and fury,” which Kim Jong-un’s favorite partner promised North Korea in case of a missile attack on Americas cities. It is just four months ago when Trump and his smooth Vice President Mike Pence told the North Koreans how their leader, the honorable Mr. Kim Jong- un, could end if he continued to be unwilling to make a deal-just like Muammar Gadhafi, the Libyan dictator. The Arab also tried to arm himself with nuclear weapons. Attacked by US jets and European allies, flushed out of his hiding place, killed by a shot into the head. North Korea’s Vice Foreign minister Choe Son-Hui called Pence’s warning “ignorant and stupid” and threatened a “nuclear to nuclear showdown.” Above all, USC Professor David Kang is pleading, “Washington must take steps to ease North Korea’s fears of an American attack. Without such a guarantee, the North will never surrender its nuclear arsenal.”

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