Trump’s Busy Week and Preferential Choices

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Insights, analysis and must reads from CNN’s Fareed Zakaria and the Global Public Square team, compiled by Global Briefing editor Jason Miks.

There Was Something Vital Missing from the Trump-Kim Statement

Kim Jong Un pledged “complete denuclearization” in a joint communique with President Trump following their historic summit. There was just one thing missing, The Economist argues: Any way of actually making sure this happens.

“If anything the document is even woollier than the statement signed by Mr Kim and Moon Jae-in, South Korea’s president, after their first meeting on April 27 […] There is nothing in the latest screed that is specific enough to be enforceable. The hard work of turning rhetoric into substance will be left to others,” The Economist says.

“The president said Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, will meet North Korean officials next week to get this process into motion. But either leader can easily derail the détente should he lose interest in it. Negotiations with North Korea over its nuclear program have always broken down in the past. There is no guarantee, in short, of any progress at all.”

Trump’s Remarkable Language

The joint communique may have been woolly, but there was at least one concrete development. And it wasn’t a good one, The Washington Post editorializes.

“By far the most substantive result of the summit was Mr. Trump’s sudden announcement of a freeze on US-South Korean military exercises—a concession that apparently took the South Korean government and the US military by surprise. With backing from China and Russia, which seek to diminish US strategic standing in Asia, North Korea has long sought an end to the exercises—and until Tuesday, this and previous US administrations had flatly rejected the idea. Now, Mr. Trump has adopted it—and, remarkably, used Pyongyang’s language in describing the ‘war games’ as ‘provocative.’”

  • Why stop there? China’s state-backed Global Times hopes that suspension of joint military exercises is a sign of more to come.

“If the US stops joint military exercises with South Korea, it will be a big step forward on the Korean Peninsula,” the paper says in an editorial. “With a cooling down of military activities, less US military participation, and possibly an eventual US troop withdrawal, the peninsula will completely walk out of the shadow of the Cold War.”

  • Don’t be hasty. The Korea Herald warns the United States and others against acting “rashly regarding the lifting of sanctions.”

“Sanctions are the leverage to prod Pyongyang to take quick actions to dismantle its arsenal of nuclear weapons. Their impetuous lifting could let out the steam of denuclearizing momentum. Particularly, a back door for illicit trade must not be opened.”

Two Cheers for the Summit

Victor Cha, a former National Security Council director for Asian affairs in the George W. Bush administration, suggests that some of the criticism of the summit misses the point. Yes, it was imperfect. But it also “represents the start of a diplomatic process that takes us away from the brink of war.”

“Mr. Trump’s diplomacy, however unconventional, has pierced the isolation bubble of the North Korean leadership, which no previous president could do,” Cha writes in The New York Times. “The Singapore meetings will be remembered in North Korea’s domestic narrative as Mr. Kim’s coming-out party as the leader of the world’s newest nuclear-weapons-armed state. But the United States has set the agenda for next steps, with follow-up talks led by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. And Mr. Trump has implicitly set the autumn as the first deadline for some deliverables with the promise of an invitation to the White House, presumably on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in September.”

One Danger of Things Going Well…

Even if the optimists are right, and North Korea does indeed begin the denuclearization process, there are still significant challenges ahead, two op-eds in The Cipher Brief note. The more immediate one? What to do about all that nuclear know-how, writes former CIA Chief of Station Daniel Hoffman.

“The move to denuclearize would…risk creating a brain drain proliferation challenge of the sort we faced when the Soviet Union collapsed. It wouldn’t be surprising to see North Korean scientists, freshly out of work, to seek to employ their skills elsewhere,” Hoffman writes.

“The September 2007 Israeli strike on the North Korean model il Kibar nuclear reactor in Deir ez Zor, Syria was a clear example of North Korea’s proliferation threat and just how effectively it can spread.”

…And Another

North and South Korea agreed back in 2000 to work toward eventual reunification. But even if the current thaw brings that day a step or two closer, the experience of integrating North Korean defectors underscores what a colossal undertaking reunification would be, writes Sebastian Bae for Cipher Brief.

“Any form of reunification will require careful consideration of the emotional and psychological challenge of adopting roughly 25 million North Koreans who have lived all their lives in one of the world’s most oppressive regimes. For instance, what would happen if as many as 120,000 North Korean political prisoners were released? The trauma of forced labor camps and torture will not likely disappear overnight,” Bae writes.

“[E]ven in the best-case scenario, the ROK would face the challenge of healing a long-divided nation and the unenviable task of reversing a lifetime’s worth of North Korean propaganda.”

Yes, Trump Is a Disruptor. And He Might Be Onto Something

The hand-wringing over the future of the US-led international order in the wake of the G7 summit is overblown, suggests Zachary Karabell for Foreign Policy. The system needed a shake-up anyway.

“[W]hy should anyone view the prospect of Japan working more closely with the European Union, or Germany considering its own strategic and economic needs first, or China working with Pakistan, Thailand, and South Korea on joint economic and infrastructure issues as anything other than a net positive for global economic security, stability, and prosperity? Why should everything run through Washington or New York in order to be stable and interconnected?

“The post-Cold War international order evolved when China was weak; when the European Union was in its infancy; when what we used to call the Third World was still uniformly corrupt, poor, and unstable; and when the United States dominated global trade,” Karabell writes.