There is no way to know whether the North Koreans, after three decades of duplicity, are negotiating in good faith. And there are many reasons, hard lessons learned over many years, to assume the opposite. But Trump, in his eagerness to declare victory, has chosen to set them aside in favor of a naïve assumption that everything has changed. “He trusts me and I trust him,” Trump said after his meeting.
Comments like these directly undermine Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the crucial work ahead constructing a verification regime. What’s the need for such a verification regime if the U.S. president trusts Kim Jong-un without qualification and if, as Trump claims, there is “no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea?” The entire purpose of such inspections is to demonstrate the “complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula.
Again, Trump deserves credit for his decision to abandon the unimaginative strategy that produced three decades of failure in North Korea. And, for obvious reasons, we should all want Trump’s unconventional gambit to succeed. If Trump’s new approach led to a new opening for diplomacy, his recent statements suggest that he’s positioned to make the same mistakes his predecessors made.