After President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un concluded their summit last week, Kelly Magsamen, the vice president for National Security and International Policy at the Center for American Progress in D.C., said America should resist trusting the dictator.
“We all want diplomacy to succeed, but it is a means, not an end,” Magsamen said in a news release. “We welcome the start of a diplomatic process, but when it comes to North Korea, don’t trust — verify. And this vague agreement is long on trust and short on details and verification.”
According to a CNBC review of the historic June 12 summit, many experts see Kim, having obtained a substantial concession from the world’s largest economy while simultaneously gaining greater claims to legitimacy, as the real winner.
Trump has been widely praised for calming tensions on the Korean Peninsula that threatened to escalate into full-blown conflict just six months ago. But in the long run, his actions will only be a significant success if Kim delivers on his pledge to pursue complete denuclearization — a promise the authoritarian regime has made before.
“I suppose President Trump would get an incomplete … for Chairman Kim Jong Un, it’s an A+,” David Adelman, former U.S. ambassador to Singapore, told CNBC.
Miha Hribernik, head of Asia research at consultancy Verisk Maplecroft, echoed that sentiment in a post-summit note: “Kim Jong Un emerged as the clear winner, having extracted a number of concessions from the U.S. in exchange for little of substance.”
The country’s ruler is now seen “as an equal” following the summit, Adelman said. That’s a major accomplishment for a state that’s long been isolated from the international community.
When asked whether he regards Kim as an equal, the U.S. president said he didn’t view the relationship in that way, before saying he was willing to do “whatever it takes to make the world a safer place.”
Equipped with praise from Trump, who repeatedly called Kim “talented,” and a respectful reception from Singapore’s government, North Korea’s ruler now appears more accessible to the world despite a dark human rights record, the network reported.
That will likely work in his favor by cementing his legitimacy at home and severely weakening opposition to his regime, according to Hribernik.
Alarmingly, the U.S.-North Korea agreement contains no specific commitments by North Korea and is even less rigorous than either the 1994 Agreed Framework or the 2005 six-party agreement, Magsamen said.
“Now our negotiators will get to work. Going forward, the United States must keep its eye on the ball and ensure that North Korea takes verifiable steps toward denuclearization.
“Keeping America and our allies safe, addressing the threat from a nuclear-armed North Korea, and protecting long-term U.S. interests in Asia will be the true benchmarks for success,” she said.
In this regard, there’s deep concern about the signal Trump sent by calling the joint alliance defensive exercises “provocative,” Magsamen continued.
She said this continues Trump’s disturbing pattern of undermining our democratic alliances while praising America’s adversaries.
“It is also important to remember that even if progress is made on the nuclear issue, North Korea remains the world’s worst abuser of human rights,” Magsamen said. “The United States must be clear-eyed about who we are dealing with and not lose sight of the importance of working with the international community to improve the lives of the North Korean people.”