Tuesday, June 12, 2018

North Korea Thoughts

I have some thoughts on the North Korea situation. These aren't necessarily fully developed, but I think they are worth sharing. Please add your own in the comments. I'd like to hear your impressions.

● I think this "deal" happened because Trump scared North Korea. Kim really thought Trump was going to take him out.

● I think this is a really good deal actually. North Korea Kim agreed in principle to denuclearization -- something he never even hinted at accepting before. Don't underestimate that. There's nothing concrete, but I this is a huge first step from zero to "we agree we will eventually give 100%." In exchange, we agreed to stop military exercised with the South. But honestly, the South can handle itself now and we work so closely with them that specific exercises won't be needed for some time. We did not give up sanctions or anything else that I can tell. We also gave security assurances, but that would always be needed. It's also a freebie because we can always change our minds if circumstances change.

This deal reminds me of the types of deals I used to see between companies like Lockheed and Boeing. Tentative statements of intent by their CEOs that are meant to lay the ground work for the lower-level managers to put aside their war-like views and work together on something. It's a first step in cooperation, and since North Korea and the US have no relationship at all except a hostile one, I see it as a necessary step for laying the foundation for the next step. Basically, a relationship was created today, and it has an agreed upon goal. That's significant.

● Trump has definitely tossed the ball into Kim's court. We gave up nothing really and left all the work for Kim to do. Trump even said as much when he said that he trusts Kim, but might change his mind in six months. Through that, he basically declared: "We gave Kim a to-do list and we'll see if he does it. For now, I'm willing to trust him." That reminds me of Reagan's "trust by verify" sentiment. It's smart. It keeps the pressure up. It allows a quick change of posture.

By comparison, in the awful Iran deal, Obama gave up sanctions and agreed to walk away and stop bothering Iran in exchange for Iran not doing anything bad for a few years. That's an example of how not to make a deal. It tied our hands for nothing. It gave Iran what it wanted. It never established any sort of relationship from which to work. This Korea deal is much, much smarter.

● The left is thankful nothing more concrete resulted from the summit. They clearly want it to fail because they don't want Trump getting credit for anything good. Obama's Susan Rice even tried to defuse any sort of deal by whining that Korea just wasn't ready back them to reach a deal. Yeah, right. You make your own luck, Susan.

● The idiots are doing what they always do:
● Some are whining that Trump legitimized Kim by being nice to him, as if there would be any way to reach a deal with him by slapping him. When dealing with irrational people, from dictators to angry spouses, you always need to calm them down first... not agitate them.

● Some super hawks are saying this too, but that lacks a sense of reality. You can't treat someone as if your boot is on their throat unless it is.

● Others are upset that Trump didn't address human rights. Again, a lack of priorities. The goal here is to change the very nature of the regime. If that happens, human rights follow. Worrying about human rights loses the focus on what the real goal is.
● I suspect that North Korea may use this deal as a way to shift out from under China's wing. There is an opening at least to eventually align themselves with the west, and North Korea doesn't seem to like/trust China much... so maybe.

● Am I hopeful? Surprisingly, yes. Kim seems interested in change and Trump had made it easy for him. Will he do it? Not sure, but all the signs are there if you look. And Trump isn't the kind of guy to treat this like a finished matter either, so I think it will be driven home eventually.



Anthony said...

Your claim NK has never pledged to denuclearize is simply not accurate. The most recent but far from the only example of North Korea violating promises to denuclearize is the Six Party talks back in 2005.

The pattern with NK is they test up until they run out of money (testing costs money and escalating sanctions cost money) then they make an agreement, then once the pile of money builds up again (due to the pause in testing and/or sanctions relief) then they break the deal.

The suspension of US-SK training exercises is something that NK has long sought and Trump just gave it to them in exchange for (as you said) nothing concrete.


The second major diplomatic effort were the Six-Party Talks initiated in August of 2003 which involved China, Japan, North Korea, Russia, South Korea, and the United States. In between periods of stalemate and crisis, those talks arrived at critical breakthroughs in 2005, when North Korea pledged to abandon “all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs” and return to the NPT, and in 2007, when the parties agreed on a series of steps to implement that 2005 agreement.

Those talks, however, broke down in 2009 following disagreements over verification and an internationally condemned North Korea rocket launch. Pyongyang has since stated that it would never return to the talks and is no longer bound by their agreements. The other five parties state that they remain committed to the talks, and have called for Pyongyang to recommit to its 2005 denuclearization pledge.

AndrewPrice said...

I'm sorry my typo doesn't meet with your approval. Change "Korea" to "Kim" and read it again.

AndrewPrice said...


Let me add this thought about the military exercises. Trump hasn't "given them up" by any rational definition. He's put them on hold as a carrot, with the ability to schedule one at any time. Here's what he said:

“We will be stopping the war games, which will save us a tremendous amount of money, unless and until we see that the future negotiation is not going as it should.”

That last part means we have stopped them only so long as North Korea does what we want. The moment they misbehave, we restart. To see this as some sort of genuine commitment is silly.

Secondly, the quotes on how this will hurt are ridiculous. Some are upset that Trump said he would like to bring the 32,000 troops in Korea home. They are wrongly referring to this as bringing our troops home from "Asia," and they are claiming that plays into Chinese hands. No one said that though. These same "experts" are calling our Asian alliances "a shaky architecture of alliances." There is nothing shaking about our alliances with Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and Australia, however. Nor is there anything shaky about how hard the Philippines and Vietnam want to be our friends.

Also, these same experts claim that stopping these exercises will "immediately begin to degrade the readiness and deterrent posture of the 32,000 U.S. troops in South Korea." Bull. If that were true, they wouldn't only schedule these games every so often. What's more, it's not like this means that everyone goes into their corner and can't speak to each other. That's scaremongering.

AndrewPrice said...

I'm not usually a big fan of Fox News but here's an opinion piece that is not only spot on, but covers lots of little details that I think are entirely correct. It's worth a read:


I particularly like how he points out that the left became mysteriously quiet about human rights under Obama.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, This is odd. I can see your comments on the comments page, but I can't see it on the blog itself. It's not in the spam folder either.

Unknown said...

I’m not a fan of Trump but he has handled
The North Korea problems very welL.
Kim wanting to break free of China’s influence is promising and ironic at the same time, for Kim.
The strong approach gets better and faster results, and the carrot Trump is offering must be quite tempting to Kim.

AndrewPrice said...

Allena, As a person, I despise Trump. But so far, he's done some great things as President and that part makes me happy. I'm really impressed with what he's done with North Korea. Basically, he's done it right. He's laid out what they will get if they behave and told them "go earn it." Compare that with the Iran deal where Obama gave everything and said, "Now it's your turn."

It's hard to see the future where Korea is involved, but this "feels" like it's going to lead to something big.

AndrewPrice said...

BTW, Trump said something yesterday to Kim about becoming a great leader of his people (don't remember the quote). Naturally, the experts (who are pivoting to human rights to attack Trump) pretended to be appalled. What they missed is that this is exactly the thing Trump needed to say to play to Kim's ego. Trump understands how to play Kim. That's a great sign.

AndrewPrice said...

So Trump said North Korea would destroy a missile testing facility. The "experts" scoffed as it wasn't written in the agreement. It looks like it's happening. The intercontinental rocket testing site at Tongchang-ri is apparently being dismantled.

Imagine that.

Unknown said...

This must be why Nixon kept the China negotiations secret.

tryanmax said...

Hmm, I can't remember what I wrote before. It was from the middle of stay-cation. Oh, well, you've touched on most everything I can think of, especially the naybobs lamenting that Trump has given Kim *gasp* credibility! As far as I can see, Trump hasn't "given" Kim anything that he can't back out of. There are certainly no pallets of cash being dropped into Pyongyang.

Trump is negotiating from a position of strength. I'm surprised the Left hasn't taken the tack that Trump is bullying Kim. Trump is essentially promising to treat Kim nice if Kim gives up his toys.

I don't know much about past talks with N. Korea, but it seems they were mainly focused on what the West could do to encourage N. Korea to play nice. The current talks, by contrast, seem focused on what N. Korea can do to make the West play nice.

Anthony said...


Are you basing your claim NK wants to break away from China on something? As I've noted before China and Russia are majors backers and enablers of NK. NK means they aren't the biggest troublemakers in the region and allows them to play the role of good cop. They give NK cover and inspiration.

In terms of its political/economic system North Korea does not want to be South Korea it wants to be China or even Russia. Hell NK is visiting China right now.


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