The Trump-Kim Singapore Summit was oversold and it under-delivered
By Kent R. Kroeger (June 12, 2018)
Donald Trump just committed the worst sin in business: He over-promised and under-delivered.
That is the single best way to lose your customer base.
So what happened?
Lets start with the good news. We are not on the brink of war with North Korea. Only a few months ago the U.S. was prepared to give North Korea a “bloody nose” with hypodermic attacks on some of North Korea’s nuclear weapons development facilities and missile launch capabilities. (We still are prepared to do so, if necessary).
In addition to strict economic sanctions negotiated with allies by US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley and former U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the U.S. was applying significant pressure on North Korea prior to Singapore.
Haley and Tillerson’s hard work brought North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to the table. It was up to Trump’s foreign policy team, led by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security advisor John Bolton, to start the substantive negotiation process to denuclearize North Korea.
As Hawaii congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, one of the few Democrats that doesn’t suffer from Trump Derangement Syndrome, said of the Singapore summit, “Diplomacy can be the difference between war and peace. Which is why it is so important that we be willing to meet with anyone, even those who are not our friends, to further the cause of peace.”
By that metric, Trump’s Singapore summit with Kim was an unqualified success. Regardless of the agreement coming out of it, Singapore broke diplomatic ground the 11 presidential administrations prior to Trump failed to achieve.
And it is possible that we will still see real substantive agreements coming out of Singapore.
Now the bad news.
For now, the following signed communique is the only result of the Trump-Kim Singapore summit:
Joint Statement of President Donald J. Trump of the United States of America and Chairman Kim Jong Un of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea at the Singapore Summit
President Donald J. Trump of the United States of America and Chairman Kim Jong Un of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) held a first, historic summit in Singapore on June 12, 2018.
President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un conducted a comprehensive, in-depth, and sincere exchange of opinions on the issues related to the establishment of new U.S.-DPRK relations and the building of a lasting and robust peace regime on the Korean Peninsula. President Trump committed to provide security guarantees to the DPRK and Chairman Kim Jong Un reaffirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
Convinced that the establishment of new U.S.-DPRK relations will contribute to the peace and prosperity of the Korean Peninsula and of the world, and recognizing that mutual confidence building can promote the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un state the following.
1. The United States and the DPRK commit to establish new U.S.-DPRK relations in accordance with the desire of the peoples of the two countries for peace and prosperity.
2. The United States and the DPRK will join their efforts to build a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.
3. Reaffirming the April 27, 2018 Panmunjom Declaration, the DPRK commits to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
4. The United States and the DPRK commit to recovering POW/MIA remains, including the immediate repatriation of those already identified.
Having acknowledged that the U.S-DPRK summit — the first in history — was an epochal event of great significance in overcoming decades of tensions and hostilities between the two countries and for the opening up of a new future, President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un commit to implement the stipulations in this joint statement fully and expeditiously. The United States and the DPRK commit to hold follow-on negotiations, led by the U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and a relevant high-level DPRK official, at the earliest possible date, to implement the outcomes of the U.S.-DPRK summit.
President Donald J. Trump of the United States and Chairman Kim Jong Un of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea have committed to cooperate for the development of new U.S.-DPRK relations and for the promotion of peace, prosperity, and security of the Korean Peninsula and of the world.
This communique requires nothing of North Korea. Its a diplomatic haberdashery of nice thoughts, good intentions and loose commitments.
We should have known there was no time to hammer out even a tentative timeline for North Korean denuclearization, much less a full, detailed agreement. But Trump had many of us believing he has mastered the dark arts necessary to cut out the fat and gristle of typical diplomatic negotiations and boil things down to the issues that really matter.
Based on what came out of Singapore, Trump possesses no such skill, because no human likely possesses such a skill.
Denuclearization is a complicated process.
And how could he have? The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), otherwise known as the Iran nuclear deal, took two years to negotiate from the point Iran’s President Hasan Rouhani called for the resumption of serious negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program in August 2013.
Two years. And there were significant negotiations between Iran and the nuclear powers even before August 2013.
Trump and Kim were never destined to sign even an interim agreement when they met on Sentosa Island. Without China and South Korea at the table, how could a meaningful agreement had been hammered out?
Yet, expectations were very high going into the Singapore summit and its results came up short.
Surprisingly, it is South Carolina Senator Lindsay Graham offering the most charitable (and I believe accurate) assessment of the Singapore summit: “Kim Jong Un has put himself in a box. He met with the president. He shook his hand. He’s been elevated by President Trump. If he tries to back out or cheat, its going to end badly for him.”
If anything separates Trump from previous presidents, it is that he is a genuine risk-taker. George W. Bush was a risk-taker, and committed the U.S.’s worst strategic blunder (the 2003 Iraq War) in postwar history. Barack Obama was not a risk-taker, and his administration’s minimal accomplishments are a testament to this fact.
Let’s hope Donald Trump is taking the right risks at the right time.