Donald Trump has already made a variety of historic concessions to North Korea in exchange for practically nothing, but the American president nevertheless believes the rogue dictatorship is on its way toward denuclearization.
In an interview aired yesterday on Fox News, Trump said, in reference to Kim Jong-un, “I made a deal with him. I shook hands with him. I really believe he means it.”The trouble, of course, is that he didn’t really make a “deal,” per se, and there’s ample evidence that Trump’s new pal in Pyongyang is doing the opposite of what the Republican president expects him to do. NBC News reported late Friday:
U.S. intelligence agencies believe that North Korea has increased its production of fuel for nuclear weapons at multiple secret sites in recent months – and that Kim Jong Un may try to hide those facilities as he seeks more concessions in nuclear talks with the Trump administration, U.S. officials told NBC News.
The intelligence assessment, which has not previously been reported, seems to counter the sentiments expressed by President Donald Trump, who tweeted after his historic June 12 summit with Kim that “there is no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea.”
Analysts at the CIA and other intelligence agencies don’t see it that way, according to more than a dozen American officials who are familiar with their assessments and spoke on the condition of anonymity. They see a regime positioning itself to extract every concession it can from the Trump administration – while clinging to nuclear weapons it believes are essential to survival.
One U.S. official briefed on the latest intelligence added that while the North Koreans have stopped missile and nuclear tests, “there’s no evidence that they are decreasing stockpiles, or that they have stopped their production. There is absolutely unequivocal evidence that they are trying to deceive the U.S.”
The Washington Post had a related piece over the weekend, pointing to a previously undisclosed Defense Intelligence Agency estimate, which concluded that North Korea is unlikely to denuclearize. U.S. officials, the article added, believe North Korea “is considering ways to conceal the number of weapons it has and secret production facilities,” making preparations “to deceive the United States about the number of nuclear warheads in North Korea’s arsenal as well as the existence of undisclosed facilities used to make fissile material for nuclear bombs.”
The Republican president recently said he “solved” the North Korea “problem.” It now appears he got this backwards.
Trump tends to get pretty angry in response to reports that he got suckered in his talks with North Korea – the American president recently suggested news accounts about his foreign policy were “almost treasonous” – but the reality of the situation is painfully obvious.
Kim Jong-un received a long-sought summit with the American president in exchange for nothing; Trump lavished public praise on the brutal dictator in exchange for nothing; Trump announced a cessation of U.S. and South Korean joint military exercises in exchange for nothing; and the Republican even raised the prospect of easing economic sanctions against North Korea.
For his trouble, Trump received a vague assurance about possible future denuclearization – in a written agreement that’s weaker than similar agreements reached by Trump’s recent presidential predecessors – which the rogue nuclear-armed dictator is apparently already taking steps to ignore.
I’m reminded of something the Washington Post’s Jackson Diehl wrote in May, ahead of the summit in Singapore. “He’s not up to serious negotiation,” Diehl said of Trump. “He can’t be expected to seriously weigh costs and benefits, or make complex trade-offs. He’s good at bluster, hype and showy gestures, but little else. In short, he may be the worst presidential deal maker in modern history.”
That appears to be even truer now than it was at the time.
Postscript: At least North Korea has returned the remains of U.S. troops killed in the Korean War, right? That’s what Trump recently suggested, but according to the State Department, the president’s rhetoric about this wasn’t true, either.