So North Korea says, hey, if you won’t do something big for us immediately, we won’t do anything tiny for you years from now, and President Donald Trump says goodbye. Something huge has been at stake, of course, namely whether millions of people will someday get killed by nuclear weapons, while even our own Congress gets in the way along with China, Russia and presidential bumbles of the past.
The event was the Vietnam summit at which the United States was prepared to begin lifting trade sanctions on North Korea if it would first take definitive steps to denuclearize and then get the rest of the job done quickly, completely and with verification. Trump got us to the point of President Kim Jong Un saying, hmm, our slave state could be in trouble if we don’t act nicer and quit testing nukes and annoying the United States by threatening to eliminate it.
Trump, after all, had been talking about “fire and fury” and used activated battleships as an exclamation mark. He was also arranging North Korea’s further impoverishment through the United States and the United Nations saying if there is no deal, there is no trade. A consequence was bumpy movement in the right direction. There were all kinds of complications, but hope still seemed on the horizon until Russia and to some degree China cheated on sanctions.
They’re evil players, China and Russia, and they have the legacy of President Barack Obama to build on. He gave us the Iran deal in which sanctions went away for essentially nothing. Inspections were not allowed at one of the places weapons development is most likely to occur, military bases. If Iran is caught violating the deal, which it did in trying to buy nuclear technology from Germany 32 times, that’s not a violation because it did not succeed? You tell me.
Meanwhile, Iran is testing missiles, has harassed our own military forces, has sponsored terrorists, is trying to conquer the Middle East and has built what appears to be a missile that could reach the United States. We allowed Iran to keep the infrastructure necessary to enrich uranium, and yes, Iran did send highly enriched uranium to Russia, which may already be returning some.
In addition to signaling the world that the United States is a sucker, Obama showed North Korea why it might be stupid to let go of its nukes. Without the needed approval of Congress, he helped in attacking Libya after it agreeably disposed of its nukes; if you foolishly disarm, we will get you, he as much as said. More than even the great wealth Trump promised for denuclearization, North Korea wants security, and then prominence and power.
It had seemed conceivable, meanwhile, that Trump could persuade China to get tough on sanctions again because its command economy commanded a mess that we could help fix. Now, following the example of three presidential predecessors who let things build to the point of serious endangerment in North Korea, Trump is easing up on China. It appears he is lifting tariffs as it continues to steal our intellectual property and provides no help on North Korea. Trump is also ending joint military exercises with South Korea as a way, he says, to save money.
As if all of that was not sweet enough, he also said murderous Kim had nothing to do with the torture of an American student whose sin was stealing a poster in North Korea and who later died. Kim convinced him of that, Trump said, although Kim obviously let it happen.
Democrats in Congress, meanwhile, are playing every trick their contorted imaginations can come up with to disempower Trump, making him a nothing actor at home and abroad, and, like I said, the stakes in North Korea are millions of lives.
Jay Ambrose is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service. Readers may email him at email@example.com.