"We're very happy how it's going with North Korea," Donald Trump told reporters six days ago. "We think it's going fine." In the same press conference, the Republican president added, "Nobody else could have done what I've done."
Trump didn't specify what, exactly, he thinks he's "done" with regards to North Korea, which was probably for the best. Because despite the president's limitless confidence about his perceived triumph, reality keeps getting in the way. The New York Times reported yesterday:
North Korea is moving ahead with its ballistic missile program at 16 hidden bases that have been identified in new commercial satellite images, a network long known to American intelligence agencies but left undiscussed as President Trump claims to have neutralized the North's nuclear threat.The satellite images suggest that the North has been engaged in a great deception: It has offered to dismantle a major launching site -- a step it began, then halted -- while continuing to make improvements at more than a dozen others that would bolster launches of conventional and nuclear warheads.The existence of the ballistic missile bases, which North Korea has never acknowledged, contradicts Mr. Trump's assertion that his landmark diplomacy is leading to the elimination of a nuclear and missile program that the North had warned could devastate the United States.
NBC News published a similar report soon after, noting North Korea's ongoing work on its ballistic missile program, and highlighting a separate analysis by the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, provided exclusively to NBC News, which described "a secret military base deep in North Korea's interior that analysts believe could house missiles capable of reaching the United States."
All of this comes about a month after Trump describes his relationship with North Korea's Kim Jong-un, and the recent negotiations he's had with the brutal dictator.
"I was really being tough -- and so was he," the Republican told a West Virginia audience. "And we would go back and forth. And then we fell in love, okay? No, really. He wrote me beautiful letters, and they're great letters. We fell in love."
Evidently, those great letters left out a few things.
It seemed obvious from the outset that Donald Trump was making a mistake by prematurely claiming a triumph on North Korea. Despite the circumstances, though, as regular readers know, the American president assured the world that he’d “solved” the problem posed by the rogue nuclear state, to the point that North Korea is no longer a threat.
“President Obama said that North Korea was our biggest and most dangerous problem,” Trump declared last month. “No longer – sleep well tonight!”
All of this rhetoric seemed misguided at the time. It seems a little worse now.