War on Peace: The End of Diplomacy and the Decline of American Influence
William Collins: 2018
I want to thank Chairman Kim [Jong Un] for taking the first bold step toward a bright new future for his people,” said President Donald Trump of a dictator holding 120,000 North Koreans in prison camps, where torture, executions and forced abortions are well documented. “He is very talented. Anybody that takes over a situation like he did at twenty-six years of age and is able to run it and run it tough.” This of an inherited personality cult, a leader who ordered his uncle by marriage executed and his half-brother assassinated with nerve gas in a Malaysian airport, and who set North Korea on a far more paranoid, authoritarian, nuclear-armed path than his father, the country’s previous dictator, ever did.
This was high praise from a White House that, six months earlier, was entertaining a military strike on North Korea at the risk of nuclear war. Then, Trump warned of “fire and fury” against the isolated nation.
In Washington DC, former White House staffers told me that Trump’s reversal was a masterstroke out of his self-help management books, that Trump had negotiated from a position of strength. It’s true that Trump held almost all the cards. He was in command of overwhelming military force and had created a tense atmosphere backed by the threat of strikes. The White House wanted an end to North Korea’s nuclear weapon development. North Korea wanted an end to annual US military exercises with South Korea, which it has long complained are a prelude to an invasion.
Meeting with Kim Jong Un in Singapore in June, Trump pledged just that. But North Korea made no corresponding promise to disarm its nukes. Instead, leaked intelligence from the Defense Intelligence Agency suggests it is still doing the opposite, advancing them.