Does it matter that the U.S. President stood next to a man who sends his own citizens to “gulags” said to be more brutal than Nazi death camps? Does it matter that Donald Trump heaped praise on Kim Jong Un, the man who had his half-brother murdered and whose regime beat Otto Warmbier into a coma before sending him home to his parents to die?
Does it matter that 36,914 Americans perished defending South Korea, making certain its people wouldn’t be subject to the same inhumanity inflicted on those who live north of the 38th parallel? Does it matter that 900 Americans were believed to have been captured by North Korea but never returned?
Does it matter that President Trump – master dealmaker he claims to be – left one ally, maybe two, dumbfounded by promising not to conduct the war games we’ve jointly pursued since the 1990s? Those games are expensive, said the man who pushed the Department of Defense’s budget to $700 billion last year, then he parroted the North Korean complaint that such games are “provocative.”
Keeping America safe from the threat of nuclear war is one of any leader’s greatest priorities. But it is not the only priority. When confronted with the possibility of Russian nuclear missiles in Cuba, John F. Kennedy said: “Our goal is not the victory of might, but the vindication of right – not peace at the expense of freedom, but both peace and freedom, here in this Hemisphere, and, we hope, around the world.”
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It was not wrong for President Trump to pursue that hope by meeting with North Korea’s despot. But after hearing his account of the meeting and learning of his concessions, it was a mistake.
What matters is that North Korea has never told the truth about ridding itself of nuclear weapons. And likely never will.
From other editorial pages:
Chicago Tribune – Yes, the handshake between Trump and Kim was historic. Seeing the two men face each other was surreal. They smiled and patted each other on the shoulder. ... Whatever comes next in this tense, unstable relationship, the two leaders conducted diplomacy rather than insult-flinging. That’s progress. ... Let’s call this meeting a surprise success and hope for more. If the two leaders produce the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula as promised, you’ll see them together again in Oslo.
Bloomberg View – The world can be glad of one thing after U.S. President Donald Trump’s summit meeting with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un: They’re still talking. But that, by itself, does little to reduce the North Korean threat. ... What’s needed now from the U.S. president isn’t further showmanship but quiet and methodical diplomacy, closely coordinated with China, South Korea and Japan. The U.S. should make no more unrequited concessions and insist on actions and a short timetable to freeze, cap and then dismantle the North’s nuclear and ballistic-missile arsenals.
Dallas Morning News – (The) Singapore summit between President Donald Trump and North Korea’s leader Kim Jung Un could have been a disaster, and it wasn’t. ... Against all this talk, and all these concessions, there was no mention of human rights. No mention of the gulags, the propaganda, the persecution millions of his people live under. To praise Kim’s survival skills is strange talk from an American president, given that he did so without noting Kim inherited his position as absolute monarch of a country ruled by fear, murder and constant surveillance. As talks continue, we can only hope Trump realizes that any meaningful peace will have to address the human rights outrages that prop up his new negotiating partner.