Have we really made “big progress” with North Korea?

President Trump is hailing North Korea’s announcement that the regime is willing to end the testing of its ICBMs. He tweeted:

North Korea has agreed to suspend all Nuclear Tests and close up a major test site. This is very good news for North Korea and the World – big progress! Look forward to our Summit.

I don’t want to rain on Trump’s parade. If he gets a boost in popularity for this news, that’s fine with me. He has taken plenty of undeserved hits in the past 15 months.

I must say, however, that (1) North Korea has given up little if anything by agreeing to stop testing and to close down a test facility; (2) getting North Korea to a summit isn’t much of an accomplishment.

As to testing, Kim Jong Un has said:

Nuclear development has proceeded scientifically and in due order and the development of the delivery strike means also proceeded scientifically and verified the completion of nuclear weapons. We no longer need any nuclear test or test launches of intermediate and intercontinental range ballistics missiles and because of this the northern nuclear test site has finished its mission.

(Emphasis added)

He’s probably right.

Think of North Korea’s willingness to stop testing as similar to Iran’s agreement to freeze, more or less, its nuclear program for a period of years, the difference being that North Korea is even further along. Few conservatives were impressed by Iran’s action. I see North Korea’s as no more meaningful.

As to the summit, North Korea has typically been willing to talk to the U.S. It was more than happy, for example, to negotiate with the Clinton administration. It will be even happier to talk directly with President Trump. Kim Jong Un expects, reasonably, to boost his prestige by doing so.

Again, the Iran analogy seems apt. Few conservatives were impressed that Iran was willing to negotiate with the U.S. It’s to be expected that a nation well along the path to nuclear weapons will attempt to see what concessions we will grant in exchange for slowing down a bit or maybe just promising to.

I’m not saying the U.S. shouldn’t talk to North Korea or that Trump shouldn’t meet with Kim. Talking seems no worse than the alternatives left to us at this point. It might prove to be better. Indeed, talking to Kim might be necessary in order to maintain a good relationship with South Korea.

However, we shouldn’t expect much good to come from the talks and we should perhaps worry that Trump, in his eagerness to reach a deal, will make more concessions than he should in exchange for what the U.S. will get.

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