Will Trump’s daring North Korea gambit silence critics and produce results

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portrait by Marco Grob

It stands a good chance if Trump remembers two of Reagan’s dictums: 1. Peace through strength and 2. Trust but verify!

In a surprise announcement Thursday evening the South Korean National Security Advisor Chung Eui-yong, gave Trump credit for bringing North Korea to the negotiating table:

Chung Eui-yong,…I explained to President Trump that his leadership and his maximum pressure policy, together with international solidarity, brought us to this juncture. I expressed President Moon Jae-in’s personal gratitude for President Trump’s leadership.

I told President Trump that, in our meeting, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said he is committed to denuclearization. Kim pledged that North Korea will refrain from any further nuclear or missile tests. He understands that the routine joint military exercises between the Republic of Korea and the United States must continue. And he expressed his eagerness to meet President Trump as soon as possible.

President Trump appreciated the briefing and said he would meet Kim Jong-un by May to achieve permanent denuclearization.

The Republic of Korea, the United States, and our partners stand together in insisting that we not repeat the mistakes of the past, and that the pressure will continue until North Korea matches its words with concrete actions.

That last paragraph deserves special attention. The last thing the world needs is another empty agreement made solely so the occupant of the White House can play Neville Chamberlain and declare “peace in our time” as Obama did with the utterly feckless, totally lopsided, Iranian deal.

It’s Trump’s chance to prove his critics wrong and show what he’s made of. This is an incredible opportunity for him to demonstrate his “art of the deal” skills on the world stage. Unlike Obama Trump will have to resist the overwhelming temptation to be popular by signing a deal that is just for show and not results. There is every indication that he understands what is at stake.

Kim Jong Un talked about denuclearization with the South Korean Representatives, not just a freeze. Also, no missile testing by North Korea during this period of time. Great progress being made but sanctions will remain until an agreement is reached. Meeting being planned!

Trump will need help from other foreign leaders to make any deal a meaningful reality. One ace up his sleeve is his close personal relationship with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan who was the first world leader to come to Trump Tower after the President’s election to congratulate him. Abe is already on board with negotiations and obviously the South Korean leader is as well.

What about China? No deal will work without their help. On the surface relations between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping are excellent. The Chinese gave Trump a royal welcome during his visit to Beijing and Trump reciprocated with a very personal touch by having his granddaughter Arabella sing in Mandarin for the Chinese leader via video.

Meanwhile, after months of criticizing Trump for his bellicose language in response to North Korea’s nuclear provocations, elements of the left wing wing media are stunned into admiration. CNN’s Erin Burnett said “That is incredible thing and I don’t think there’s anybody watching this or any expert on Korea who expected that response at this time, pretty stunning.” Burnett added “If President Trump can truly solve this problem, that would be going down as a great President and there’s no way around that. That is the reality here.” Not all Trump critics were excited. Many of the usual Obama sycophants showed up to suggest that if Obama couldn’t do it then Trump couldn’t either. But then, do we need to listen to them? They still think the Iranian nuke deal advanced the cause of peace!

I would agree with the Obamaites on one thing: making surprising announcements is great but actually improving a situation is more difficult. And since Trump is fully aware of the mistakes Obama made in that regard he won’t repeat them. Still, a meeting between Trump and Kim will be big political theater and Trump can’t help but come out on top!

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