On Saturday, while the Nerd Prom was in full blossom, President Trump was at a rally in Washington Township, Michigan. When he started talking about the upcoming meeting with North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un, this happened:
Several months ago, South Koreans considered President Trump as dangerous as North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, as the two traded threats of nuclear annihilation.
Now, commentators and others in Seoul think Mr. Trump deserves a Nobel Prize for helping start the unexpected peace process unfolding on the divided Korean Peninsula. On Monday, South Korea’s president, Moon Jae-in, said he felt the same.
Mr. Moon’s endorsement of a Nobel for Mr. Trump, who has faced one ethical scandal after another at home, came as the South Korean leader presided over a meeting of his senior presidential staff on Monday. During the meeting, Mr. Moon received a telegram from Lee Hee-ho, a former first lady of South Korea, congratulating him for a successful summit meeting with Mr. Kim on Friday and wishing him a Nobel Peace Prize.
“It’s really President Trump who should receive it; we can just take peace,” Mr. Moon was quoted by his office as saying.
In recent months, Mr. Moon and his senior aides have repeatedly thanked Mr. Trump for making a rapprochement between the Koreas possible. Mr. Trump’s “maximum pressure” approach of tightening the noose around the North with economic sanctions and military threats was largely responsible for forcing Mr. Kim to the negotiating table, they said.
There are probably two separate threads running through this.
Contrary to a lot of commentary, the United States is driving the train on the South Korea-North Korea rapprochement. It is proceeding, not because Moon talked about it in his campaign, because the US has given a green light. If the US had wanted to make trouble, the negotiations with South Korea over the trade disputes would be very ugly. Lockheed would not have been allowed to deliver F-35 fighters to the ROK air force. The ongoing process of returning wartime operational control (OPCON) of South Korea’s military would have been slowed down. In short, without Washington giving its approval North Korea would have known it was negotiating with someone who had no clout with its major patron and there is no point in that.
Getting North Korea to this point is due in no small part to Trump and the advisers he brought in with him. As Adam Schiff said yesterday, right before scratching his own eyeballs out, Trump’s bellicosity convinced North Korea and China and Russia and South Korea and Japan that war was a very real possibility and part of being America First meant being rather cavalier about the number of benighted foreigners slaughtered in the process.
To attribute the Korean breakthrough to Trump validates his crude, menacing rhetoric as the impetus for positive historical change. But it is not Trump who accomplished this. It was done by Koreans united in fear to the threat he poses to all of them https://t.co/hVIx4Eph7G
— Dr. Mark P. Barry (@DrMarkPBarry) April 30, 2018
To a great extent, this is a meaningless observation. What does the method matter if the objective–in this case, not killing several hundred thousand people–is accomplished? (Oddly enough, this is a metaphor for a lot of Trump criticism. He offends the aesthetic of people who fancy themselves his betters.)
This fear convinced the Chinese to actually apply sanctions and, as a result, Kim’s regime is projected to run out of foreign currency around October.
2018 1st quarter Chinese imports from North Korea fell 89% compared to 2017 (from $483 million to $57 million). Read more in the latest blog by William Brown! https://t.co/n3uwAE34it
— KEI (@KoreaEconInst) April 30, 2018
If this happens, Kim’s life expectancy drops dramatically. Because what is the benefit of being in the ruling clique in a Third World shithole if you can’t visit Geneva?
The second strain here is ally management. I expect that as Moon is a fairly smart guy he’s picked up on the fact that Trump is a little vain and likes to hear himself praised. What better way of doing that than saying that Trump deserves all the credit for any peace agreement that happens between North and South Korea?
If North and South Korea do sign a peace accord, Trump deserves the same recognition as the leaders of North and South Korea and President Xi of China.
I’ve been critical of Trump foreign policy missteps in past year: TPP, Paris, too many unnecessary missteps with allies to count.
But today’s historic North/South Korea breakthrough does not happen without priority & pressure from US President.
Trump deserves full credit.
— ian bremmer (@ianbremmer) April 27, 2018