Trump's Declaration That North Korea Is 'No Longer a Nuclear Threat' Will Haunt Him

Mission Accomplished!

Credit: Evan Vucci/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Few were surprised that Trump bungled his much-hyped summit with Kim Jong-un. And, as expected, the president emerged from Singapore singing the praises of the North Korean dictator, as he has done after meeting with other authoritarian leaders around the world. What's mind-boggling is the extreme degree to which Trump has gushed over Kim – touting his "great personality" while dismissing his myriad human rights atrocities – as well as his unbridled belief that the longtime United States adversary is going to denuclearize as soon as possible. 

On Wednesday morning, the president went so far as to hang a Mission Accomplished! banner across his Twitter feed, declaring that "there is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea."

Trump also assured Americans that Kim Jong-un was negotiating in good faith, and that North Korea is no longer a problem. "Sleep well tonight!" the president wrote.

Though the president wants all of these things to be true, in reality, little has changed as a result of the summit. If one were being generous, the summit could be called a step in the right direction, but there's still a long way to go before anything resembling a substantive agreement is reached. While in Singapore, Trump promised to call off America's joint military exercises with South Korea – and, according to state-run media in North Korea, to lift economic sanctions – while receiving nothing from Kim other than a tenuous promise to denuclearize. No parameters were outlined. No timetable was set. Doing so would have been close to impossible, anyway, as Trump was steadfast in his refusal to verse himself in the specifics of North Korea's nuclear program, telling reporters "it's about the attitude." No notes were required, either. "I have one of the greatest memories of all time," the president boasted.

There is of course plenty of historical evidence to suggest Kim Jong-un has no intention of abandoning the nuclear arsenal North Korea has spent years developing. In 1985, North Korea signed a non-proliferation treaty. In 1992, it signed a joint declaration with South Korea promising to denuclearize. In 1994, it promised the United States it would dismantle its nuclear program in exchange for aid. In 2005, North Korea promised to give up its nuclear program in exchange for energy assistance. In 2010, North Korean state media said the nation "will be party to nonproliferation and disarmament agreements" commensurate to other states with nuclear capabilities. In 2012, the country said it would suspend long-range missile tests in exchange for food aid. After conducting several tests in 2016, North Korea said it would be willing to denuclearize, and then continued to conduct tests. The most recent bit of evidence North Korea is likely to stand pat came in the weeks leading up to the summit, when the country’s vice minister of foreign affairs released a statement criticizing the United States while claiming the nation has no intention of denuclearizing in exchange for economic relief.

Some might call this 30-year pattern of making assurances – many of them more concrete than the one Kim gave Trump in Singapore – and then breaking them worthy of more consideration than whatever bro vibes Trump and Kim exchanged over the course of a few hours. Nevertheless, Trump believes his own limited experience dealing with Kim is more substantive than decades of history, facts or what anyone else paying attention would deem common sense. As the fake movie trailer Trump played for Kim says, "The past doesn't have to be the future. Out of the darkness can come the light, and the light of hope ... can burn bright."

Despite the cinematic narrative, it's ironic that a president who has lied prolifically since entering the political arena cannot even entertain the possibility that the dictator of America's most dangerous enemy – whose citizens have been bred to despise the United States – may have misled him. This unhinged tyrant, to Trump, is a new, funny, trustworthy friend with a great personality who he can't wait to invite to the White House so the administration can genuflect to him on American soil. Meanwhile, Trump has declared the American media to be "the country's biggest enemy."

It's unclear whether Trump's closed-door meeting with Kim featured any talk of the virtues of state-run media.