I am reminded of the country song by Toby Keith, “A little less talk and a lot more action“:
I was getting kinda tired
Of her endless chatter
Nothing I could say
Ever seemed to matter
So I took a little drive
Just to clear my head
I saw a flashing neon up ahead
It looked like a place
To find some satisfaction
With a little less talk
And a lot more action
The Singapore Summit is over, and if President Trump achieved more than his predecessors, it seems that there is a lot less in writing than we might have hoped. From The Wall Street Journal:
Deal has few specifics, but U.S. president says the leaders will ‘meet again…many times’
By Michael C. Bender, Michael R. Gordon and Jonathan Cheng | Updated June 12, 2018 | 6:11 a.m. ET
SINGAPORE — Talks between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un produced few specific new commitments by Pyongyang to surrender its nuclear weapons, pushing any deal on timing and verification of disarmament to future negotiations.
Some of the biggest developments weren’t in the document signed by the two leaders. Speaking to reporters a few hours later, Mr. Trump said he would cease “tremendously expensive” joint military exercises with South Korea, a move he thought would be welcomed by Mr. Kim.
The U.S. has steadfastly refused to suspend such exercises in the past despite North Korean demands, and the Pentagon has long argued that the maneuvers are necessary to maintain the readiness of American forces to defend South Korea.
South Korea’s Defense Ministry said it was in talks with the South Korean presidential office and didn’t have an immediate comment. A spokesman for U.S. Forces Korea said that it would maintain its current posture until it was otherwise instructed by Indo-Pacific Command.
In addition, Mr. Trump said Mr. Kim had agreed to destroy a missile-engine testing site, in a concession that wasn’t part of the written agreement. Last week, 38 North, a website on North Korean affairs, published satellite imagery that showed North Korea had razed a missile test stand in the country’s northwest. The test site, analyst Joseph Bermudez noted in the report, had been used for testing solid-fueled medium-range missiles and could have used for developing longer-range missiles.
What was actually signed wasn’t exactly a nothingburger, but it was little more than a commitment to future action:
Convinced that the establishment of new U.S.-DPRK relations will contribute to the peace and prosperity of the Korean Peninsula and of the world, and recognizing that mutual confidence building can promote the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un state the following:
- The United States and the DPRK commit to establish new U.S.-DPRK relations in accordance with the desire of the peoples of the two countries for peace and prosperity.
- The United States and the DPRK will join their efforts to build a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.
- Reaffirming the April 27, 2018 Panmunjom Declaration, the DPRK commits to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
- The United States and the DPRK commit to recovering POW/MIA remains, including the immediate repatriation of those already identified.
It means, in effect, more negotiation. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but a lot more work needs to be done.
President Trump said that the meeting led to a ‘personal bond’ between Chairman Kim and himself, that they would meet again, “many times,” and that he would be inviting the North Korean leader to the White House.
China applauded the outcome of the summit, saying it is what Beijing has worked toward, and said in light of the outcome, the United Nations Security Council should reconsider its sanctions against Pyongyang.
“Sanctions are a means not an end,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters in Beijing. “We believe the Security Council should make efforts to support the current diplomatic efforts and contribute to the political settlement of the Korean Peninsula issue.”
Mr Trump gave up little; the sanctions previously imposed against the DPRK remain in place. The most important concession was the proposed end to the joint military practices between the United States and the Republic of Korea (a verbal commitment, not something in writing), while North Korea has already started dismantling some of its nuclear weapon and ballistic missile testing sites, something almost forced upon Chairman Kim due to the accident at Punggye-ri.
There’s a lot more to be done, and there have been many times in the past that the DPRK has failed to live up to its commitments. American diplomacy could still fail here, though at the very least, Mr Trump hasn’t had the failure that Secretary of State John Kerry and President Obama had with the Iran nuclear agreement.
How much of this was forced by the destruction of the Punggye-ri test site? Not all of it, unless the damage to North Korea’s weapons program was worse than has been reported, which is certainly a possibility.¹ Chairman Kim’s hand was forced, though we don’t know exactly to what degree, and President Trump was smart enough to take advantage of it.
Given that the DPRK did not receive relief from sanctions, or any economic assistance — something it needs desperately — there is a lot more pressure that Mr Trump can put on Mr Kim. Whether that will work remains to be seen.
The Bad Hair Summit was not the rousing success for which the supporters of President had hoped, but it wasn’t the abysmal failure that the left wanted. How much, or how little, more will be accomplished remains to be seen.
Cross-posted on The First Street Journal.
¹ – The razing of the Iha-ri missile test stand was not forced by the devastation at Punggye-ri, but if the technicians to run it or the scientists and engineers to design ballistic missiles were killed or incapacitated at Punggye-ri, the test facility could have been sacrificed for diplomatic purposes simply because it could no longer be operated.