In the aftermath of Donald Trump’s summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, one of the key questions is on verification. The two leaders signed a statement in which the dictatorship agreed to “work toward” denuclearization, but the vague phrasing raised more questions than it answered.
How will North Korea “work toward” that goal? How would the United States know if the authoritarian regime is keeping its word? Instead of answering the questions, the Trump administration yesterday rejected them as annoying. Politico had a good report on this late yesterday:
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo lost his cool Wednesday with reporters who pressed him on the vague agreement President Donald Trump reached with North Korea in Singapore this week.
During a visit to South Korea Wednesday, Pompeo bristled at and called “ludicrous” questions about why a document Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un signed on Tuesday did not include language that Pompeo has called essential to any nuclear deal.
When asked how a nuclear agreement would be verified, Pompeo snapped: “Don’t say silly things…. It’s not productive.”
Look, I can appreciate the stress Pompeo is under. His boss keeps making concessions to one of the United States’ key enemies in exchange for nothing, all while alienating several of the United States’ closest allies. This isn’t an easy time to be America’s top diplomat.
But that doesn’t change the fact that Pompeo’s frustrations yesterday were absurd. Reporters asked the cabinet secretary to explain why this week’s agreement didn’t include phrases such as “verifiable and irreversible.” Apparently, the pressure got to him.
“I find that question insulting and ridiculous and, frankly, ludicrous,” Pompeo said. “I just have to be honest with you. It’s a game and one ought not play games with serious matters like this.”
A Washington Post analysis noted in response, “Apparently the media and the public should trust, without evidence, that the administration has everything under control.”
Given this gang’s track record, that’s a big ask.
What’s especially striking about Pompeo’s anger is the fact that he should expect questions like these. Of course people are going to ask about the verification process. Of course there will be questions about the vague provisions of an important document.
The secretary of state had time to prepare for these obvious lines of inquiry, and as of yesterday, the best he could come up with was indignation.
I hate to break it to Pompeo, but there’s nothing “ludicrous” about routine accountability.