Nu­clear sum­mit all blus­ter and bal­loons

Trump caved to Kim and blind­sided S. Korea

USA TODAY US Edition - - NEWS - Wendy R. Sher­man

I sup­ported Pres­i­dent Trump’s de­ci­sion to meet with Kim Jong Un, the dic­ta­tor of North Korea. From my own ex­pe­ri­ence in ne­go­ti­at­ing with the North Kore­ans, I know that their lead­ers be­lieve only they can make con­se­quen­tial de­ci­sions for their coun­try. This makes sense since North Korea lacks a free press, an ef­fec­tive leg­is­la­ture and any sense of “we the peo­ple.”

Al­though the United States is a democ­racy, Pres­i­dent Trump has said that he feels that only he makes de­ci­sions for our coun­try. I thought, then, that per­haps these two lead­ers might de­velop a frame­work that would au­tho­rize ne­go­ti­at­ing teams to move for­ward with a plan to dis­man­tle North Korea’s nu­clear weapons pro­gram and bal­lis­tic mis­siles in a com­plete, ver­i­fi­able and ir­re­versible way.

In­stead, the Sin­ga­pore sum­mit wasn’t much more than blus­ter and bal­loons. It was a cel­e­bra­tory sum­mit where Kim pub­licly re­ceived the re­spect and recog­ni­tion that he and his pre­de­ces­sors have long sought, and Trump didn’t get much more than a vague prom­ise. Op­tics were ar­ranged to por­tray Kim as the equal of a U.S. pres­i­dent. Flags of both coun­tries were hung side-by-side, photo ops were ar­ranged, and the lead­ers signed an of­fi­cial state­ment that was far weaker than at least three pre­vi­ous doc­u­ments signed by North Korea in years past.

Giv­ing away diplo­matic tools

Un­like the agree­ments ne­go­ti­ated in 1992, 1994 and 2005, Tues­day’s joint state­ment in­cludes no ver­i­fi­ca­tion re­quire­ments or frame­work to guide up­com­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions.

To fur­ther com­pli­cate mat­ters, Pres­i­dent Trump an­nounced that the United States would cease joint mil­i­tary ex­er­cises with South Korea and in­di­cated that he hopes to with­draw all U.S. troops from the Korean Penin­sula — re­mov­ing from the start an im­por­tant tool in our diplo­matic tool­box, in this case de­ter­rence of the North’s large con­ven­tional mil­i­tary.

Worse, the pres­i­dent used Kim’s talk­ing points, calling the ex­er­cises “war games” and “provoca­tive” when they are de­fen­sive in na­ture. And, ap­par­ently, the an­nounce­ment was made with­out South Korea’s knowl­edge.

This un­der­scores the pres­i­dent’s predilec­tion to act bi­lat­er­ally and on his own with­out re­gard to al­liances and part­ners. He ap­pears to have for­got­ten about our uni­fied com­mand with the Repub­lic of Korea, which serves our se­cu­rity as well as South Korea’s, and he doesn’t seem to un­der­stand that any po­ten­tial agree­ment would be durable only if South Korea, Ja­pan, China and Russia are on board.

Me­dia hype and ral­lies

Kim no doubt re­turned home to cheer­ing crowds, or­ga­nized by his govern­ment, herald­ing him as a great leader who suc­cess­fully made the United States treat North Korea as an equal. Pres­i­dent Trump, too, has turned on the me­dia ma­chine, or­ga­niz­ing a political cam­paign-like rally to her­ald his sum­mit. It would be bet­ter for every­one if these lead­ers and their teams sim­ply got down to work.

I hope the much-hyped per­sonal touches of the sum­mit lead to a per­sonal best in peace­mak­ing for each leader and, more im­por­tant, for our coun­tries, our part­ners and the world.

To get there, how­ever, will take more than a vague sum­mit state­ment. It will take hard work, a ro­bust and ca­pa­ble team, tech­ni­cal de­tail, pa­tience and per­sis­tence. It will de­mand ver­i­fi­ca­tion and mon­i­tor­ing. It will re­quire the en­gage­ment of all our al­lies and part­ners — along with the U.S. Congress and the Amer­i­can peo­ple. The real cel­e­bra­tion will be years down the road, if at all.

Nonethe­less, di­a­logue and diplo­macy are a bet­ter path than fire and fury.

Wendy R. Sher­man, se­nior coun­selor at the Al­bright Stone­bridge Group, was un­der­sec­re­tary of State for political af­fairs from 2011-15 and led U.S. ne­go­ti­a­tions on the Iran nu­clear deal. She was pol­icy co­or­di­na­tor on North Korea in the Clin­ton ad­min­is­tra­tion.

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