On Tuesday, representatives of North and South Korea met across the demilitarized zone to discuss various issues, and they announced that North Korea would participate in the 2018 Winter Olympics. At a press conference Wednesday, South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in thanked American President Donald Trump for making the talks possible.
Moon credited Trump with having “made a huge contribution to make inter-Korean talks happen [and] I’d like to express my gratitude.”
Trump took credit for the talks in a tweet. “With all of the failed ‘experts’ weighing in, does anybody really believe that talks and dialogue would be going on between North and South Korea right now if I wasn’t firm, strong and willing to commit our total ‘might’ against the North,” the president tweeted. “Fools, but talks are a good thing!”
With all of the failed “experts” weighing in, does anybody really believe that talks and dialogue would be going on between North and South Korea right now if I wasn’t firm, strong and willing to commit our total “might” against the North. Fools, but talks are a good thing!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 4, 2018
Moon also said he would be willing to meet North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, CNN reported.
North Korea disagreed with Moon’s assessment. The state-run Rodong Sinmun newspaper criticized Trump for “boasting of ‘diplomatic success,'” but it did not mention the negotiations.
While Moon praised Trump and the international community for putting pressure on North Korea, leading them to reach out for talks, he also warned that the pressure “could raise tensions and bring about unintentional clashes.”
“We need to have a deep consideration regarding how we would appropriately manage these tensions, prevent unintentional clashes and establish dialogue with North Korea,” Moon added. “War must not break out on the Korean Peninsula again. My goal is to resolve the North Korean nuclear problem and solidify peace during my term.”
What an ambitious goal! If Moon achieves this, he will go down in history as one of the most effective South Korean presidents — and Trump should get the credit for making this possible.
The two Koreas released a joint statement saying, “South and North Korea have decided to make joint efforts for the unity of the people and reconciliation by establishing an environment for peace and easing military tensions on the Korean Peninsula.”
Early in the peace process, Trump criticized Moon for appeasing Kim, who as North Korea’s dictator has sustained a brutal regime. His tune changed as the discussions seemed to yield fruit, however.
Conservatives often support a more aggressive foreign policy because it leads to deterrence — scaring rogue actors like North Korea into deciding not to attack others and spark wars. In this case, the pressure from Trump seems to have achieved this in spades. The president’s aggressive statements against Kim, coupled with international sanctions, seem to have pressured the North Korean dictator into reaching out to the South.
China also plays a large role in this story. While the east Asian giant trades with North Korea, President Xi Jinping has distanced himself from North Korea, suggesting that in the case of a conflict between the U.S. and South Korea, the North could not rely on Chinese help. In the Korean War, the South and the U.S. defeated North Korea, but China’s military involvement turned the tide, leading to the stalemate and the establishment of the demilitarized zone.
If China took North Korea’s side, Kim would be much less likely to cave and request talks with Moon. The North Korean leader presumably reached out to South Korea because he feels isolated and threatened, and needed an ally.
The big loser in this equation is the liberal media. Toward the end of last year, The Washington Post published a hypothetical story of nuclear war, blaming President Trump’s tweets for pushing North Korea over the edge. Mere months later, it seems those tweets may have had an impact — in pushing North Korea to make agreements with the South.