In the summer of 2018, Donald Trump was so confused about his engagement with North Korea that he started making boasts about having "solved" the problem posed by the rogue nuclear state. As the Republican put it after a summit with Kim Jung-un, "There is no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea."
Trump added in a tweet at the time, "President Obama said that North Korea was our biggest and most dangerous problem. No longer -- sleep well tonight!"
In the months that followed, as North Korea engaged in missile testing that Trump pretended didn't exist, the American president continued to pat his own back, telling Fox News what a "great job" he was doing with North Korea. Reflecting on the road ahead, the Republican added that there's "great progress being made."
Trump's boasts were difficult to take seriously at the time. They look even worse now.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said he sees no reason to continue his self-imposed moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile tests, warning the world will soon see "a new strategic weapon" unveiled by his country in the near future. [...]According to state-media's report of the four-day meeting [of his Workers' Party's Central Committee], Kim "confirmed that the world will witness a new strategic weapon to be possessed by the DPRK in the near future," referring to North Korea's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. It did not provide details about what this weapon might be.
Trump gambled on a curious strategy in which he'd make a series of bold concessions to the rogue nuclear state, in exchange for nothing. Indeed, as regular readers know, the Republican gave the North Korean leader the bilateral talks he wanted. And the international legitimacy he wanted. And the cessation of military exercises he wanted. And the public praise he wanted. And the propaganda opportunities he wanted.
And while the American president delivered these enticements to his friend in Pyongyang, Kim appears to have "quietly improved and expanded" his weapons program, which is the opposite of what the United States wanted to see.
For all the pomp and circumstance surrounding Trump's outreach, all he has to show for his efforts is a national security challenge with a rogue nuclear state that's arguably more dangerous now than when he took office.