North Korea officially declared an end Friday to its diplomatic dalliance with the U.S. But experts say it’s been clear for some time that President Donald Trump’s bold but risky effort to sweet talk Kim Jong into relinquishing his nuclear weapons never really went anywhere.
Two high-profile meetings with North Korea’s leader bought Trump a hiatus from bellicose rhetoric and nuclear tests, but Kim never stopped building nuclear warheads and the missiles to deliver them, U.S. intelligence officials and private analysts say.
Now, on the second anniversary of that first Trump-Kim summit in Singapore, North Korea is renouncing the diplomacy while promising to expand its weapons program, even as experts say it is ever closer to perfecting a long-range missile capable of reaching and destroying an American city.
Trump therefore joins a long list of presidents who tried and failed to cut a deal to get rid of North Korean nuclear weapons — but the first one who met face to face with the leader of the outlaw regime, lending it a measure of legitimacy. Trump at one point mused that he and Kim “fell in love,” and he showered praise on a dictator who is said by human rights groups to keep tens of thousands of political prisoners in vast gulags.
Trump made a series of other concessions, including the unilateral cancellation of joint U.S. and South Korean missile exercises. He got very little in return.
“In terms of the so-called goals of the summit, we made no progress in any of those things,” said Victor Cha, a former White House adviser to President George W. Bush and now senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and an NBC News contributor. “And this was arguably the one piece of diplomacy into which Trump put all of his personal capital.”
If America benefited at all from the outreach, Cha said, “it probably prevented Trump from stumbling into a war with North Korea.”
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