President Donald Trump and North Korean President Kim Jong Un are meeting in Hanoi, Vietnam for their second summit. “A lot of things are going to be solved I hope,” President Trump said as their dinner together on Wednesday began. “I think it will lead to a wonderful, really a wonderful situation long-term.” President Kim Jong Un, for his part, decried past “distrust” of his country but looked forward to productive talks at the second summit. “We have met again here and I am confident that we can achieve great results that everyone welcomes,” he said.
President Trump has tried to lower expectations for the summit. “I don’t want to rush anybody. I just don’t want testing,” he said before departing for Hanoi.
Democrats and their allies in the mainstream media are desperate to take the spotlight away from any progress made at the Trump-Kim Jong Un summit. They are also insisting that President Trump accomplish immediately the complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of North Korea that the Obama administration and its predecessors failed to accomplish for so many years while they had a chance.
Congressional Democrats now in charge of the House of Representatives sought to undermine the summit before it even got underway, staging a public circus featuring the testimony of convicted liar Michael Cohen. All we really learned of any newsworthy value from the hearing is that Cohen, while trying to smear the president in every way imaginable to rationalize his own criminal conduct, admitted that he had no direct knowledge of collusion between Donald Trump or his campaign and the Russians.
The Democrats could have scheduled Cohen’s public testimony for next week. However, they put partisan interests before country. They chose to score some cheap political points to embarrass the president as he sits down with Kim. They used as their mainstay the testimony of a man convicted of lying to Congress. As Senator Lindsey Graham ( (R-S.C.) put it, “Democrats’ hatred of Trump is undercutting an important foreign policy effort and is way out of line.”
At the same time, Obama’s former national security adviser, Susan Rice, illustrated the shameless hypocrisy and intellectual dishonesty of President Trump’s critics with her latest op-ed column for the New York Times, entitled “Can Trump Avoid Caving to Kim in Vietnam?” It contains a litany of distortions, contradictions with her own prior writings, and self-righteous proclamations about the disastrous Iran nuclear deal that she believes should be the model for a deal with North Korea.
Rice begins her column with a false claim that President Trump “has declared himself content with a nuclear armed North Korea.” President Trump has declared that he is willing to be patient, not that he is giving up on the ultimate goal of a denuclearized North Korea. He is content for now that North Korea has stopped its provocative launching of missiles and testing of nuclear bombs. So are most Americans, as well as those who had been most threatened by such weapons of mass destruction in Japan, South Korea and elsewhere in Asia. This accomplishment alone by the Trump administration during its first two years in office reversed the provocative course North Korea was following during the entire second term of the Obama administration.
Even more galling than Rice’s misrepresentation of President Trump’s strategy towards North Korea is the fact that, not too long ago, it was Rice herself who advocated acceptance of North Korea as a nuclear power. Back in August 2017, during the height of heated rhetorical exchanges between President Trump and Kim Jong Un, Rice expressed grave concern that President Trump was being too tough in his threats against the North Korean regime. She counseled a live and let live strategy. “History shows that we can, if we must, tolerate nuclear weapons in North Korea,” she wrote at the time in another of her New York Times op-ed columns. She added that “we know it is highly unlikely to relinquish its sizable arsenal because Mr. Kim deems the weapons essential to his regime’s survival.” Yet in her most recent New York Times op-ed column, she expresses disdain of anything amounting to “acceptance of North Korea as a nuclear state.”
The only thing that has changed between Rice’s two inconsistent columns is the Trump administration’s success in mobilizing international pressure on North Korea to reduce tensions by suspending its ballistic missile and nuclear weapons testing. The Trump administration did so without having to claw back any of the toughest economic sanctions ever imposed on North Korea. The Obama administration, by contrast, had agreed to provide food aid to North Korea in 2012 in return for North Korea’s agreement to a moratorium on nuclear weapons and missile delivery activities at just one location. That gambit turned into a complete failure.
Within just two months of the moratorium agreement, North Korea tried unsuccessfully to launch a satellite with a rocket believed to be using medium-range ballistic missiles engines and technology that appeared to have been based on an intermediate-range ballistic missile. In response, the Obama administration decided not to go through with its planned food aid, which it should not have promised in the first place. Within a year of the moratorium agreement, North Korea conducted its third nuclear test. The Obama administration was only able to steer relatively weak economic sanctions resolutions through the UN Security Council. North Korea was not deterred a bit as it restarted its heavy water nuclear reactor at the one location where the moratorium was to have taken effect. Tensions ratcheted up from there, with more missile and nuclear weapons tests. On October 25, 2016, then-U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said that "the notion of getting the North Koreans to denuclearize is probably a lost cause" and that nuclear weapons are North Korea's "ticket to survival." This was the mess that the Trump administration inherited.
As North Korea continued along its path of launching longer range ballistic missiles and testing more powerful nuclear weapons during 2017, President Trump tried the new big stick and tough talk approach that Rice had so stridently criticized in her August 2017 op-ed column. In his first address to the UN General Assembly, President Trump threatened to “totally destroy North Korea,” if the United States is forced to defend itself or its allies, adding “Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.” President Trump also managed to achieve something that had eluded past presidents, including Barack Obama – China’s cooperation in passing and implementing UN Security Council resolutions with economic sanctions that had real bite for the first time. In December 2017, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2397, imposing sanctions on North Korea that included cutting refined petroleum imports by nearly 90 percent and limiting crude oil exports to 4 million barrels, while requiring that North Korean workers be expelled from other countries in two years or less.
Starting in 2018, as the economic screws tightened around his neck, Kim Jong Un changed course and decided to pursue diplomatic talks with South Korea and the United States. The first Trump-Kim Jong Un summit took place in Singapore last June, resulting in a vaguely worded joint statement to "establish new US-DPRK relations," "build a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean peninsula," and aim for “complete denuclearization on the Korean peninsula." American hostages were released and the remains of fallen U.S. soldiers from the Korean War have been returned to the United States. Thus, the second summit has started from a positive baseline, which includes the continued suspension of ballistic missile launches and nuclear weapons tests by North Korea
Nevertheless, Susan Rice is correct in one respect. Much more needs to be accomplished. North Korea has continued work on its missile and nuclear weapons programs. It has managed to evade some of the existing economic sanctions, with help evidently from China and Russia. The UN Security Council sanctions must continue to remain in effect, with added pressure placed on China and Russia to stop undermining their full implementation. U.S. unilateral sanctions must also remain in effect. North Korea must begin to show good faith by agreeing unconditionally to freeze its work on advancing both its ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programs under the auspices of a mutually acceptable onsite international monitoring mechanism. Any material softening of the sanctions or any other major concessions from the United States should only follow North Korea’s taking verifiable incremental steps towards the irreversible dismantling of its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile development, production and testing facilities.
Susan Rice presents the Obama administration’s disastrous nuclear deal with Iran as the right model to follow in dealing with North Korea. She claims that the deal with Iran achieved “a final, verifiable deal to denuclearize Iran.” Nothing could be further from the truth. At best, because of its sunset clauses, the nuclear deal Rice touts simply delayed the Iranian regime’s path towards amassing a nuclear weapons stockpile. Iran’s military sites remain out of bounds for any international inspections, except on terms dictated by the Iranian regime. The Obama administration was so focused on curbing Iran’s nuclear enrichment and plutonium production capabilities that it overlooked the development of nuclear weapons miniaturization technology and trigger devices that the Iranian regime has been trying to perfect, most likely at its undeclared military sites. And thanks to the inept Obama administration negotiators, led by former Secretary of State John Kerry, the Iranian regime defiantly continues to test ballistic missiles.
Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Deputy Commander Hossein Salami declared in a speech that aired on February 19, 2019 on IRINN TV that Iran would fight its enemies on “the global level.” He added, "We shall never lay down our weapons. We are holding the banner. We have taken an oath. This is who we are. We were not created for this world. We were chosen to wage jihad."
In short, the loophole riddled Iranian nuclear deal with a murderous regime bent on a warlike campaign of global jihad is the worst example to follow for reaching a successful negotiated outcome with North Korea. Susan Rice, John Kerry, and their boss Barack Obama are also the last persons from whom to take advice on how to successfully deal with hostile adversaries such as the Iranian and North Korean regimes.
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