Donald Trump’s October 24, 1999 Meet the Press interview with Tim Russert is a historically illuminating flash forward to the most surprising, promising and history-altering opportunity since the Soviet Union collapsed: “denuclearizing” North Korea without the could-be belligerents waging a hideously destructive war that scars East Asia and seeds a global economic depression.
Yes, those are the stakes: millions of dead and trillions of debt.
In the interview, Russert says Trump once indicated if he were president he would attack North Korea preemptively in order to end its nuclear threat.
Despite Russert’s vapors and wailing, Trump’s grammatically-challenged beer and barbecue answer is a superb twofer. One: Trump answers Russert’s core question. Two: Trump accurately summarizes the American government’s spaghetti-spined responses to North Korea’s slow but insidious quest for nuclear weapons.
Trump says, “First I’d negotiate and be sure I could get the best deal possible… These people in three or four years are going to have nuclear weapons… The biggest problem this world has is nuclear proliferation. And we have a country out there in North Korea which is sort of whacko, which is not a bunch of dummies and they are developing nuclear weapons… If that negotiation doesn’t work then better solve the problem now than solve it later.”
Trump continues, “…Jimmy Carter, who I really like, he went over there. It was so soft these people are just laughing at us…. You know that this country went out and gave them nuclear reactors, free fuel for 10 years, we virtually tried to bribe them into stopping and they’re continuing to do what they are doing. And they are laughing at us… You want to do it in five years when they have warheads all over the place, every one of them pointed to New York City, to Washington… Is that when you want to do it? You’d better do it now. And if they think you’re serious… They’ll negotiate and it’ll never come to that.”
Trump is a man who intuitively seeks and finds leverage in business negotiations, and his reply to Russert reflects that. Since his election in November 2016, that skill is now applied to two entwined problems from Hell that for six decades have boggled U.S. foreign policy officials and the vain goblins at the Council on Foreign Relations: ending The Korean War and halting nuclear proliferation.
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On March 5, remarkable news broke: North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un said he is willing to discuss denuclearizing his regime. He made no demand on South Korea and the U.S., other than that they meet to discuss the subject face to face. The South Korean delegation that met with him in Pyongyang indicated Kim said he understood South Korean and American joint military drills would continue. That was a major concession. For decades the Communist state’s propagandists have portrayed allied military exercises as preparations for an invasion of the North. In exchange for negotiations, the Kim regime would demand the allies suspend exercises. Not this time. Moreover, the dictatorship also agreed to halt its provocative nuclear weapons and missile tests while talks continue.
Is this a breakthrough? Possibly. Trump tweeted on March 6: “Possible progress being made in talks with North Korea. For the first time in many years, a serious effort is being made by all parties concerned. The World is watching and waiting! May be false hope, but the U.S. is ready to go hard in either direction!”
The Kim regime, from Granddad Kim Il Sung (he invaded South Korea in June 1950) to Grandson Kim Jong Un (he assassinated his own brother in February 2017), has a record for vicious duplicity, mendacity and criminality. Genocidal starvation of its own citizens is another Kim clique sin. The Kim regime could use negotiations to buy time to deploy a nuclear weapon deliverable by ICBM—a trick it pulled on the Clinton administration. It could reject the intrusive verification regimen assured compliance requires—and the regimen Trump 2018 has in mind would frustrate any Saddamesque sidesteps and UN inspector gimmickry Kim might try.
That said, Kim putting denuclearization on the agenda is a yuge concession on the part of the dictator and his criminal regime.
To reemphasize, denuclearization is Trump administration shorthand for America’s strategic goal on the Korean peninsula: no nuclear weapons in either the North or the South.
Claims Trump is giving spur of the moment diplomatic recognition to North Korea are vapors from the vain goblins. It doesn’t matter where the face to face occurs. If Kim wants it in Pyongyang, fine, as long as the 82nd Airborne Division and a tank brigade from 1st Cav handle the security perimeter. You won’t allow paratroopers and tanks, Rocket Man? Then we hold this Biggest Show On Earth somewhere else.
The vulture looked the eagle in the eye and blinked
Thankfully, Trump is a President that takes resolving problems as a personal challenge and is not willing to play them for political effect, then hand them off to the next administration. Unfortunately, since that hand-off has been executed so many times, the resolution could be messy.