Trump and Kim Cook Up a Nothingburger

I’m not a big fan of the term nothingburger, but I can’t really think of a better way to describe the “agreement” signed by Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un. It literally does nothing and says little more, just a promise to “work toward” denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. Here’s the closest it gets to anything of substance:

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.

That’s it. A pledge to someday possibly consider thinking about maybe appointing a commission to contemplate thinking more about denuclearization. It’s like two siblings pledging to their mother that they’ll get along from now on. There isn’t even a hint of an agreement that would be necessary to denuclearize the peninsula. And the problem is that the process here has been reversed. For decades, Kim and his father and grandfather have wanted a face-to-face meeting with an American president because it puts him on an equal plane with the most powerful country in the world. We have dangled that as a possibility, but only if we could get an ironclad agreement and major concessions. Trump has stood that on its head, giving him what he wants without any actual concessions made, only what my father might call “a lick and a promise.”

Not only have we been here before, we’ve been much further with Kim and his family before. In 1985, we got them to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty. That didn’t last. In 1992, North and South Korea signed the Joint Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, agreeing not to test, produce, posses, or deploy nuclear weapons, and agreeing to mutual verification inspections. North Korea then refused to follow through.

In 1994, former President Carter went to North Korea and negotiated something called the “Agreed Framework,” in which North Korea agreed to stop enriching plutonium and shut down its nuclear reactors in exchange for food and fuel. We all know how long that lasted. In 2006, there were six-party talks between North Korea, the US, Russia, Japan, China and South Korea. Nothing ever came from them and they collapsed in 2009. In 2012, Obama ratcheted up the sanctions in hope of pushing Kim Jong-Un into making a deal, but he had just taken over after his father died a year earlier and he had to consolidate his power, so he refused any pressure.

We’ve been here before, and much further than this. We’ve had actual agreements on denuclearization signed and ratified and they were as useless as the paper they were printed on. Now Trump thinks he should get a Nobel prize for what was little more than a photo op with no actual agreement made whatsoever. The art of the deal? Not even close.

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