Donald Trump has moved beyond the issue of North Korea and on to his next episode, dissing NATO allies and running to Vladimir Putin’s warm, autocratic embrace. But while Trump’s short attention span has shifted to the next episode of the reality show that he believes his presidency to be, the issue of North Korea is very much alive, and very much still a concern.
Trump said there is no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea. But a few days ago, it was revealed that US intelligence has a very different assessment. They believe that North Korea is planning to significantly under-report their nuclear stockpile and their enrichment sites. Given the stock many, myself included, put into such assessments when it came to Iran, it would be foolhardy to ignore them in this case.
The concerns here are as obvious now as they were predictable on June 12. Trump, an incompetent leader whose ego leads him to believe those who flatter him, was played for a fool by Kim Jung-un. But there are other issues to contend with.
One of those is the fact that his top national security aides are not on the same page. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is cautiously talking about timelines for North Korean disarmament. National Security Adviser John Bolton is already saying this can be done in less than a year if North Korea complies. And Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis seems to be out of the loop entirely. That is a situation that should concern everyone, not only Americans.
But the issues go beyond Trump’s cabinet. There is a legitimate concern that a good deal could be missed because of the animus liberals, leftists and even many Republicans have toward Trump. That concern was reinforced by congressional Democrats who made declarations about the standards North Korea should be held to that sounded eerily similar to Republican saber-rattling in 2015 over Iran.
The cliché that “talking is better than not talking” Is correct most of the time. Where it fails, however, is in the face of gross incompetence. Continue reading
French President Emmanuel Macron likely wrote the epitaph for the Iran nuclear deal as he was leaving Washington. Based on his statements, U.S. relations with Iran and North Korea as well are becoming increasingly dangerous.
“(President Donald Trump’s) experience with North Korea is that when you are very tough, you make the other side move and you can try to go to a good deal or a better deal,” Macron said. “That’s a strategy of increasing tension … It could be useful.”
Trump accordingly believes that North Korea has agreed to talks because Kim Jong Un was intimidated by Trump’s belligerence. But this is unlikely to be the case. Colin Kahl, the former national security adviser to Vice President Joe Biden, wrote on Twitter that “Trump likely misreads Kim Jong Un’s reasons for agreeing to a summit: to legitimize rather than dismantle his nuclear program. Remember, Kim said North Korea could stop testing because the nuclear program was already complete.”
Although no one can be certain of Kim’s thinking, Kahl’s interpretation is much more consistent with what is known about Kim and the current diplomatic state of play. So, what does the US leaving the Iran nuclear deal mean for the relationships with Iran and North Korea? Read more at LobeLog
I spoke today on WHYY’s show, Radio Times, about John Bolton, Mike Pompeo, Gina Haspel and Dona;d Trump’s foreign policy. You can listen to the show here. WHYY is the NPR affiliate in Philadelphia.
On Monday, I spoke with David Swanson of Talk Nation Radio about the appointment of John Bolton as Donald Trump’s new national security adviser. You can hear the interview here.
Since John Bolton was appointed as Donald Trump’s national security advisor, I have spent a good deal of time talking about it. Those conversations have been with colleagues in the policy world, friends, and the media. In honor of the Passover season, here are four questions that have been broadly discussed, and my responses to them. Read more at LobeLog
After weeks of rumors, President Donald Trump today replaced National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster with former Ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton. Many foreign policy analysts and advocates immediately expressed deep concern and dismay at Bolton’s appointment.
Former Assistant Secretary of State Philip Crowley tweeted about Bolton’s appointment, “I was at dinner in late 2016 with some former European diplomats when Rex Tillerson emerged as the nominee for (Secretary of State). While unknown, they expressed relief that (Donald Trump’s) choice was not John Bolton. EU diplomats will not sleep well tonight given the latest news.”
Joe Cirincione, president of the Ploughshares Fund, a leading anti-nuclear foundation, tweeted, “This is the moment the administration has officially gone off the rails.” While the Mideast advocacy group J Street tweeted that “Bolton is an unabashed advocate for the premature, unnecessary and reckless use of military force in the Middle East and around the globe. This appointment isn’t just unwise. It’s disastrous.”
The brazen nature of Bolton’s appointment was underscored by the fact that it came the same day that news broke of Bolton having recorded a video for a Russian gun group in 2013, after being introduced to the group by the National Rifle Association (NRA). Given the scandals around Russia and the NRA of late, the indifference to the politics of this news speaks volumes about the White House’s commitment to Bolton.
As outraged as many supporters of diplomacy have been at Trump’s appointments and policies, Bolton’s appointment reaches a new level. Here at LobeLog, we are reprinting, with permission, the profile of John Bolton from Right Web, a site which tracks the activities of a vast array of right wing and militaristic figures and organizations. Read more at LobeLog
The drama around North Korea and Donald Trump took another bizarre twist last week, with the sudden announcement that Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un would meet sometime before May. Reaction was as swift as it was diverse. The confusion deepened when the White House quickly walked back from its commitment, reassuring critics that there would be preconditions beyond those to which North Korea had already committed. Spokespeople later walked back the walkback.
Once again the Trump administration seems to be trying to extricate the country and the president from a situation he impetuously created. It is impossible, with a stripped-down and inexperienced staff in both the White House and the State Department, for a summit between two leaders to be ready in less than two months. That’s especially true with these two leaders.
This latest comic opera, however, allows us to take a snapshot of what’s wrong with the Trump administration’s entire approach to foreign policy and the U.S. approach to North Korea more broadly. Read more at LobeLog