Another Trump-Kim summit? The first one hasn't accomplished much.

Another Trump-Kim summit? The first one hasn't accomplished much.
Another Trump-Kim summit? The first one hasn't accomplished much.  

President Donald Trump emerged from his historic summit last June with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un and proclaimed on Twitter that "there is no longer a Nuclear Threat. ... Sleep well tonight!"

Nearly seven months later, the nuclear threat remains. Even worse, Kim made plain in his annual New Year's Day address that he hasn't budged on a crucial pre-summit demand: no disarmament until U.S.-led sanctions are removed. Without a lifting of sanctions, Kim warned, he would take a "new path" in nuclear talks.

It's true that Americans might be sleeping better because the harsh, warlike (rocket man versus dotard, fire and fury, my button is bigger than your button, etc.) rhetoric the leaders exchanged in 2017 ceased after their Singapore meeting.

And North Korea hasn't tested any more nuclear bombs or launched any more missiles, though Kim asserted two months before the summit that his arsenal is complete and that he doesn't need to test anymore.

OPPOSING VIEW: North Korea diplomatic process is not a failure

Kim's latest strategy, perhaps best described as flattery-will-get-you-everywhere, has involved sending flowery missives to Trump. The American president, who has mused about deserving a Nobel Peace Prize, has an interest in putting the best face on what hasn't been achieved.

Trump waves around the "beautiful letters" and even told rally-goers that he and Kim "fell in love." (One can only imagine how conservatives would react if President Barack Obama or Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had said such a thing about a brutal dictator who runs a network of labor camps.)

Theatrics aside, North Korean negotiators have done nothing since the Singapore summit to put flesh on the vaguely worded, bare-bones agreement Trump reached with his Pyongyang counterpart, which called for "complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula."

There hasn't even been a first step of providing an inventory of North Korean nuclear weapons, facilities and fissile material, much less resolving the complex issues of dismantlement, inspections and verification. Pyongyang has turned a cold shoulder to a visit by U.S. envoy Stephen Biegun.

North Korea has used these kind of tactics for decades, stalling for time and leveraging its nuclear weapons for concessions from America.

The response from Trump? Another summit - another chance for Kim, who admitted in his annual address an inability to provide electricity to his own people, to achieve peer-like status with the president of the United States.

"We're negotiating a location," Trump told reporters Sunday. News reports Monday said the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi is one of the sites being considered.

Talking is, of course, always better than the alternative. And Trump's hand remains strong. The 10 rounds of sanctions levied by the United Nations Security Council since 2006, coupled with additional U.S. sanctions, helped shrink North Korea's gross domestic product by 3.5 percent last year and could shrivel it by an additional 5 percent this year.

The concern is that Trump has a history of making one-sided foreign policy moves without getting anything in return: agreeing to a U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem without any Middle East peace concessions from Israel; selling arms to Saudi Arabia without ending Riyadh's brutal war in Yemen; and planning a major withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan without reaching a peace agreement with the Taliban.

What would Trump give Kim to preserve the appearance of diplomatic progress? Kim's long-sought dream of a formal end to the Korean War, granting him legitimacy as leader of the north? Withdrawal of U.S. troops from South Korea?

Trump ought to set those beautiful letters aside and continue sanctions until Kim takes concrete steps toward dismantling his nuclear arsenal.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Another Trump-Kim summit? The first one hasn't accomplished much.


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