A much-touted two-day summit between Donald Trump and North Korean Leader Kim Jong-Un has come to the finish line Thursday, as Trump returns to Washington, DC. It's unclear exactly what unraveled the process; Trump says "The Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Complex, North Korea reportedly But throwing around blame for it Hanoi misses the point:
The United States and North Korea should not pursue negotiations over the Hermit Kingdom's nuclear disposition. They absolutely should, and will continue, by Trump's departing remarks. "Chairman Kim and myself, we want to do the right deal," Trump said. "Speed is not important." The Trump and Kim should not be the ones to do the deal, at least not the bulk of it.
Former ambassador Robert Gallucci
Trump has built his brand as a master negotiator, despite being uneven results in the political realm. And in fairness, his gambit to meet with Kim in Singapore. Importantly, North Korea has not tested a ballistic missile or nuclear weapon in over a year. And its relationship with South Korea, while still tense, has somewhat thawed.
"These are positive steps, and show that the North Koreans are at least willing to have negotiations, and engage in diplomacy with South Korea and the United States, Says James McKeon, a policy analyst at the Center for Arms Control and Non-proliferation, a DC-based nonprofit.
But in the months since Singapore, North Korea has offered little to no evidence of curtailing its weapons programs. And why would they? Despite Trump's declaration last June that "there is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea," the Singapore Accord just affirmed that "the DPRK commits to work towards complete denuclearization." They'll get to it, eventually
Chalk the vague language, and the resulting lacquer of verifiable progress, up to Trump's untraditional diplomacy. "When we were first looking at this Singapore Summit, we were saying that it was back. This is not the way you're supposed to do it, "Robert Gallucci said in a call with reporters. "You do not start with the summit. [Finish]
Gallucci would know; as chief US negotiator, he helped secure the 1994 Agreed Framework, which tamped down North Korea's nuclear ambitions for nearly a decade. And while he acknowledges that between Trump's own rhetoric-that a shotgun summit in Singapore, what's needed, he and others argue that it's not a viable process for Substantive change.
"President Trump's unorthodox approach to diplomacy has been created at opening, starting in Singapore and continuing to Hanoi," says Lynn Rusten, who served as senior director for arms control and non-proliferation in the Obama administration and currently works on nuclear issues at the nonprofit Nuclear Threat Initiative.
Hanoi was anything but. Trump has appointed Stephen Biegun as special envoy to North Korea six months ago, but Biegun has just completed a working-level conversation with North Korean counterparts. Nuclear diplomacy is not American Ninja Warrior . You do not get bonus points for navigating obstacles faster. Says, "Rusten, especially given how enmeshed the nuclear issues are with a broader set of regional economic and security concerns.
Jenny Town, 38 North
"It's a bit surprising that they would play high-stakes poker at such a high-profile event."
That should be especially evident given North Korea's long history of failing to keep its nuclear promises. As much as Trump has touted denuclearization as the endgame, arms control experts are most likely there, no way to get there overnight, or in a single sit-down. What does he or she want to do? "Detailing a two-hour meeting between two heads of state.
And while Thursday's failure could have been worse-Trump could have said, "I have not had any luck" missile testing-it extracts a real cost.
"It's somewhat surprising that they would play high-stakes poker at such a high-profile Event, says Jenny Town, Northwest North American watchdog 38 North.
Maintaining the status quo is preferable to more nuclear testing, but it's not a viable long-term solution. "While they are good, North Korea is continuing to cheat out material and produce weapons," says Rusten.
It's admirable that Trump has made the North Korea a top priority. The relative calm of the past eight months should not be dismissed. But if the White House wants to make an actual progress, it needs to be put to work before the next high-profile meeting. That's one concession trump, so far, seems to be unwilling to make.