While Trump’s diplomatic engagement with Kim has produced many firsts and many moments, it has yet to yield any real progress on the core issue of North Korea’s nuclear-weapons program, including long-range missiles that are potentially capable of delivering nuclear warheads to the United States.
The president has conducted nuclear talks with Kim as though they were a reality-TV show, while often ignoring or distorting the grave underlying realities of the negotiations. Standing at Observation Point Ouellette along the DMZ on Sunday, he declared that “all of the danger went away” after his initial summit with Kim in Singapore, when nothing’s changed in terms of North Korea’s military capabilities. (The military tensions that threatened to devolve into another war on the Korean peninsula in 2017 have undoubtedly subsided, for now at least.)
Trump similarly stated at a press conference before his trip to the DMZ that Barack Obama was “begging for a meeting” with Kim but that the North Korean leader had refused his predecessor’s requests. When I asked Ben Rhodes, one of Obama’s top foreign-policy advisers, whether this was in fact the case, he responded, “No. Not at all. Never.”