Trump Proved Critics Wrong on North Korea
For over a year, critics and establishment analysts derided President Donald Trump’s strategy on North Korea.
They said that his threat to use military force and sanctions would not be able to pressure North Korea toward the negotiating table.
“The first misconception is that sanctions and talk of war will lead North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons,” wrote New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof in an Oct. 12, 2017, column.
Kristof described Trump’s strategy, which involved a credible military threat and China’s help, as “wishful thinking.”
Former CIA analyst Sue Mi Terry criticized Trump as early as this March, writing that Trump’s threats and tweets addressing North Korea “were not helpful or productive.”
Trump’s unconventional approach to North Korea, however, is proving to be effective.
After decades of high tensions between the United States and North Korea, Trump and Kim met for several hours on June 12, both signing a joint agreement that states North Korea “commits to work towards complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
This was considered inconceivable for decades and is a testament to Trump’s efforts to solve the crisis.
Trump and his administration ignored what analysts were saying. Instead of playing nice with North Korea, Trump increased America’s military presence in the region and threatened to use force if needed.
Trump abandoned President Barack Obama’s policy of strategic patience, which meant not doing anything, and instead exerted a credible military threat, combined with diplomatic efforts and economic sanctions, to force Kim to the negotiating table.
Trump was also able to get Chinese leader Xi Jinping to implement, for the most part, U.N. resolution sanctions, as well as additional financial sanctions on the North.
These are what we know publicly.
The specifics of the negotiations behind the scenes and the full extent of the pressures extended by the Trump administration, we may never know.
The world got its first glimpse of how advanced talks between the two countries were in April when it was revealed that then-CIA Director, now Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo held a secret meeting with Kim in Pyongyang.
Two months later, on May 9, three American hostages were released and brought back to the United States by Pompeo.
In a press conference after his meeting with Kim, Trump said he has invited Kim to come to the White House when the time is right, and said he will also visit North Korea when the time is right.
Just hours after meeting with Kim, and despite having been awake for over 20 hours, Trump already had shifted his attention to Iran.
“I was given a very tough hand. I was given this, I was given the Iran deal and plenty of other problems,” Trump said.
Just as with North Korea, media critics and analysts have argued that Trump’s tough approach to Iran puts the world at risk.
The reality, however, paints a different picture.
Before pulling the United States out of the nuclear deal in May this year, Trump had given Iran six months to negotiate a better deal.
In October last year, Trump said he wanted two key weaknesses in the existing agreement—the so-called sunset clauses and the exclusion of Iran’s ballistic missile program from the agreement—to be modified.
Under the existing agreement, Iran would have been able by 2026 to install thousands of advanced centrifuges, which experts believe would have allowed Iran to build a nuclear bomb within six months. Because its ballistic missile program was not included in the nuclear deal, Iran has been able to continue to develop the technology needed to deliver a nuclear warhead.
“I hope that, at the appropriate time, after these sanctions kick in—and they are brutal, what we’ve put on Iran—I hope that they’re going to come back and negotiate a real deal, because I’d love to be able to do that,” Trump said at the press conference. “But right now, it’s too soon for that.”