President Trump, during an otherwise routine Sunday morning Twitter attack, seemed to indicate that he does not fully understand what has been happening during negotiations between the U.S. and North Korea ahead of the summit he has agreed to have with Kim Jong-un. Going after “Sleepy Eyes Chuck Todd of Fake News NBC” for saying that the U.S. has already given up a lot in exchange for nothing from North Korea, Trump asserted that North Korea has “agreed to denuclearization (so great for World), site closure, and no more [nuclear] testing!”
“We are a long way from conclusion on North Korea,” he continued. “Maybe things will work out, and maybe they won’t — only time will tell …. But the work I am doing now should have been done a long time ago!”
While North Korean state media announced on Friday that the country was halting its testing of nuclear weapons and closing a site where those tests had been conducted, it insisted it was doing so because it had already achieved its goal of successfully developing nuclear weapons. Also, while U.S. officials have said that Kim Jong-un has agreed to discuss the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, that is no commitment to actually abandon its nuclear weapons program. North Korea’s well-established dishonesty in diplomatic matters should also prevent any U.S. president from taking such assurances seriously — unless that president likes to boast.
Bob Corker, the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said on Sunday that North Korea’s announcement about halting tests was just a public relations move, that it has not committed to denuclearize, and it could easily reverse itself on such a statement if it had.
Trump also said on Sunday that the U.S. has given up nothing in exchange for North Korea’s promises. Many analysts disagree about that, arguing that by agreeing to the summit in the first place, Trump has already given Kim the legitimization and respect he most wanted.
It’s undoubtedly a good thing that Kim Jong-un and Trump are no longer taunting each other about nuclear button-pushing. It’s also possible that the president has been paying attention in his briefings, does understand what North Korea has and hasn’t committed to, and is just saying whatever he wants in order to attack a journalist on Twitter. But the president’s foreign policy tweets need to be taken seriously. We learned last week that one of his Fox & Friends-inspired tweets eventually led to missile strikes on Syria.
If President Trump’s tweets dictate policy and military action, it would probably be best if North Korean propaganda didn’t influence what those tweets say.