Kim Jong-un ‘Got Everything He Wanted’ From Trump in Singapore

Reactions to President Trump’s unprecedented meeting with North Korean dictator Kim Jung-un played out in a very familiar and predictable way in the United States: The president’s critics lamented his military concessions and effusive praise for a despotic regime, and his allies praised him as an outside-the-box diplomatic mastermind. What should surprise us—and alarm us—was the reaction from South Korea.

On Wednesday morning, Chosun Ilbo, South Korea’s paper of record, published a bleak editorial: “Kim Jong-un Got Everything He Wanted from Summit with Trump.”

“Many South Koreans had a great deal of hope for the U.S.-North Korea summit in Singapore because they believed that the historic meeting could resolve the nuclear threat which had loomed over their heads over the last 25 years. U.S. President Donald Trump had been full of promises,” the editorial glumly observes. “The agreement signed by Trump and Kim therefore came as a shock, which only got worse as Trump rambled on during the ensuing press conference.”

The paper’s editors expressed their consternation that despite Trump’s prior assurances that he would go into the summit with a laser focus on Korean denuclearization and flinty resolve not to ease pressure on Korea until that was achieved, he scrapped that focus almost immediately on arrival.

“The sole goal of this summit was the dismantlement of North Korea’s nuclear weapons, and the key gauge would have been a commitment to doing it ‘completely, verifiably and irreversibly’ and a date to do it by—for example 2020, when Trump’s term ends. Instead, the agreement merely reaffirmed the terms of a joint declaration by Kim and President Moon Jae-in after their summit in April, and only holds Kim to working ‘towards complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,’ which could mean anything,” the editors write. “In short, it represents no progress and achieves nothing.”

President Trump, naturally, disagrees. In fact, even by his standards, the victory lap he took Wednesday morning was shockingly bombastic: “There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea,” he tweeted. “President Obama said that North Korea was our biggest and most dangerous problem. No longer—sleep well tonight!”

Chosun Ilbo is no partisan rag: The editors were cautiously optimistic in the days leading up to the summit, and have previously insisted on the importance of Seoul staying “on Trump’s good side” rather than attempting to conduct diplomacy with North Korea alone. But South Koreans, with the historically bloodthirsty Kims at their doorstep, have even more skin in this dangerous game than the Americans do. The White House would do well to heed their protestations. There’s a lot more work to be done.

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