Little Rocket Man's Great Big Summit Scam
When President Trump tipped reporters to expect a big announcement Thursday evening on North Korea, I joked to a friend that this could only amount to good news in the unlikely event that North Korean tyrant Kim Jong Un had just sent Trump a note saying "Help! I want to defect!"
No such luck. Instead, Kim has asked President Trump for a meeting as soon as possible, and Trump has agreed to meet with Kim by May.
This plan is now being widely hailed as a historic step forward; a triumph for Trump's campaign of coralling Pyongyang with "maximum pressure." It's historic all right, but there's an enormous hazard that it's a step right into the same old North Korean trap.
North Korea has a record of deceit that includes not only the series of broken nuclear deals over the past 24 years, but the surprise invasion of South Korea way back in 1950, with which Kim Jong Un's grandfather, founding tyrant Kim Il Sung, triggered the 1950-53 Korean War. The totalitarian character of the regime itself -- a system built on brute force, threats and lies -- ought to warn us that Kim's goal in proposing a summit is not to surrender to maximum pressure, but to deflate it, via assorted diplomatic stunts. All the better for Kim to regroup and carry on with North Korea's predatory projects, global rackets and nuclear missile program. (Forget the idea that Kim might be suddenly looking to repent of his murderous ways and scrap his totalitarian system; odds are, his own grotesquely abused citizenry would seize the chance to kill him.)
Already, with this plan for a summit, Kim is gaming the mighty United States. For an American president to agree to a sitdown with North Korea's tyrant is not a coup for the U.S., it's a concession. When the elected leader of the Free World sits down with a totalitarian dictator to bargain as equals, it dignifies the dictator, not the democrat.
What's North Korea offering in exchange? Reportedly, Kim has agreed to refrain from any further nuclear or missile tests while this summit diplomacy goes forward. That sounds nifty, but unless North Korea actually dismantles its entire nuclear program and ships it a la Qaddafi to Tennessee, it means nothing. North Korea has engaged of its own accord in multiple pauses in testing over the years, including a pause of some four years between its 2009 and 2013 nuclear tests, followed by another pause of almost three years before the first of the two nuclear tests it conducted in 2016. Likewise, North Korea for its own internal and logistical reasons takes breaks between its tests of long-range rockets.
One might reasonably assume that during the breaks between all those tests, North Korea's large array of nuclear and missile scientists and technicians, working under the jackboot of Kim's regime, take time to pore over the test results and enhance their warheads and missiles for the next test. Kim Jong Un recently exhorted his nuclear experts to charge full speed ahead with mass production of nuclear warheads (he did that in the same New Year's speech in which he announced he would send a delegation to the Olympics). But even the most dedicated rogue nuclear missile program needs time for its scientists, engineers and political commissars to analyze, refresh and reload.