Kim Jong-un just played Trump before the entire world.
Photo by Dan Scavino Jr./Wikimedia Commons.
Kim Jong-un came out the big winner in the improbable summit with President Donald Trump on Tuesday, June 12, in Singapore.
The murderous autocrat from Pyongyang, North Korea, was photographed glad-handing with the president of the United States, who called him “a great talent,” and praised him for running North Korea “tough” after the passing of his father Kim Jong-il.
Trump slapped Kim on the back and treated him warmly before backdrops that showed the flags of the U.S. and one of the last totalitarian remnants of the Cold War side by side. He even showed Kim a movie trailer that starred both leaders as potential compatriots.
Trump’s positivity towards Kim is chilling, especially as the president represents a country that espouses its commitment to freedom and democracy. North Korea’s human rights abuses are well-known. It is home to over 120,000 political prisoners housed in camps reminiscent of the Soviet gulags. Kim has reportedly ordered the executions of political dissidents via anti-aircraft guns and flamethrowers.
Kim has even ordered the assassinations of close family members, including his brother.
For Trump to call Kim “tough” is a massive understatement for a man known for his hyperbole.
Trump also offered a naively optimistic assessment of the brutal North Korean regime. “I believe it’s a rough situation over there, there’s no question about it,” Trump said in a post-summit press conference. “It’s rough in a lot of places, by the way.”
Trump’s tactics of flattery have become commonplace, he has also downplayed the murderous deeds of Vladimir Putin using similar rhetoric.
Yet, according to people familiar with the discussions, Trump and Kim didn’t talk about human rights violations in North Korea.
But, according to AP, Trump did talk real estate.
BREAKING: Trump says he talked up North Korea's real estate, beachside hotel opportunities in Kim Jong Un meeting.— AP Politics (@AP_Politics) June 12, 2018\n
While Kim was given credibility as a world leader by Trump, all the president walked away with was a symbolic victory.
Trump and Kim signed a vaguely-worded document that says North Korea will “work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula” without any timelines, inspectors, or verification attached.
The agreement goes no further than what Kim already pledged in April when he met South Korean President Moon Jae-in.
North Korea’s promises have often been broken. In 2005, North Korea pledged to abandon “all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs,” which never materialized. It also committed to end nuclear weapons or missile activities in 1994, 2000, and 2007.
President Trump says he thinks Kim Jong Un will follow through with agreement:— NBC News (@NBCNews) June 12, 2018\n
"I may be wrong, I mean I may stand before you in 6 months and say, 'Hey, I was wrong.' I don't know that I'll ever admit that, but I'll find some kind of an excuse."https://t.co/SjJeNHlVRD pic.twitter.com/wXBWhvMvd0
Aligning with autocrats
Trump has previously fawned over autocratic dictators including Vladimir Putin, president of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, so it’s tough to attribute his admiration for Kim as simple flattery. His attitude towards Kim stands in stark contrast with the dismissive attitude he displayed toward America’s allies at the G7.
Sacrificing America’s moral authority seems like a huge price to pay for an agreement that, given the Kim family history, has a big chance of going nowhere.
“I’ll do whatever it takes to make the world a safer place,” Trump said at the post-summit press conference. “All I can say is they want to make a deal. That’s what I do. My whole life has been deals, I’m great at it.”
What does a vague deal mean between two men with little regard for the truth? It remains to be seen.
“I may be wrong. I mean, I may stand before you in six months and say, ‘Hey, I was wrong.’ I don’t know that I’ll ever admit that, but I’ll find some kind of an excuse,” Trump said at the press conference.