Reminder: North Korea Is Still Very Much a Nuclear Threat
Earlier this year, a handful of congressmen formally nominated President Trump for the Nobel Peace Prize. “Although North Korea has evaded demands from the international community to cease its aggression for decades, President Trump’s peace through strength policies are working and bringing peace to the Korean Peninsula,” the letter concluded, anticipating the president’s June summit with Kim Jong-un. But the Nobel committee was unmoved by Trump glad-handing a murderous dictator, and ultimately awarded the prize to Nadia Murad, an activist for those who survived sexual abuse at the hands of ISIS, and Denis Mukwege, a gynecological surgeon from the Congo.
Trump has complained as recently as late October that he likely will never win the Nobel Peace Prize. “They probably never will give it to me, even with what I’m doing in Korea and Idlib province and all of these places,” the president said while gesturing wildly during a speech given to the Future Farmers of America. “They probably will never give it to me. You know why? Because they don’t want to!”
The real reason Trump will never get the Nobel Peace Prize is that he isn’t actually doing anything in North Korea. His meeting with Kim this past summer was widely regarded as a disaster, with the president legitimizing the world’s most dangerous autocrat on a global stage while securing nothing for the United States other than the returned remains of Korean War veterans and a vague promise to denuclearize. But Trump really likes Kim — in fact, he loves him — so the president decided to go ahead and take at his work the man leading a regime that has been lying to the United States for years about plans to disarm.
Just landed – a long trip, but everybody can now feel much safer than the day I took office. There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea. Meeting with Kim Jong Un was an interesting and very positive experience. North Korea has great potential for the future!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 13, 2018
But on Monday the New York Times reported that North Korea’s ballistic missile program is very much active, and that satellite images have identified 16 hidden bases across the peninsula. “The satellite images suggest that the North has been engaged in a great deception,” the Times notes. “It has offered to dismantle a major launching site — a step it began, then halted — while continuing to make improvements at more than a dozen others that would bolster launches of conventional and nuclear warheads.”
The Times goes on to point out that after Democrats gained control of the House of Representatives last Tuesday, Trump said that there was “no rush” to resume talks with North Korea as, again, he believes the situation has already resolved itself. This could prove to be a major problem, as Trump has demonstrated that once he’s made up his mind about something — like, say, climate change being a hoax — he isn’t very open to contrary views. If curtailing North Korea’s nuclear weapons program isn’t a priority for Trump, it probably isn’t going to be as much as a priority as it should be for government agencies who are increasingly beholden to indulging the president’s uninformed whims. The Times point out that U.S. intelligence has “long known” of North Korea’s network of operational missile bases, but that it has been “left undiscussed as President Trump claims to have neutralized the North’s nuclear threat.”
By not addressing the threat, the Trump administration is enabling it. Trump has falsely and repeatedly claimed that the United States was on the brink of war with North Korea under President Obama. It was Obama, though, whose administration authorized a plan to track the movements of North Korean missiles through “a new generation of small, inexpensive satellites” developed by Silicon Valley. The initiative has stalled under Trump.
Pretty much everyone other than the president recognizes that North Korea hasn’t even begun to denuclearize, and doesn’t seem to have any intention of doing so. They’ve rebuffed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s efforts to continue talks, and have yet to provide the United States with any information about its nuclear program and how it plans to disarm. Trump is getting played by North Korea, and he’s either too incompetent realize it or too proud to admit it. The tepid statement the State Department released in response to the Times report is about as tough of a stance as the administration will take toward Kim. “President Trump has made clear that should Chairman Kim follow through on his commitments, including complete denuclearization and the elimination of ballistic missile programs, a much brighter future lies ahead for North Korea and its people,” a spokesperson said.
Victor Cha, the leader of the research team that produced the images revealing the operational missile sites, surmised North Korea’s strategy in an interview the Times. “It’s not like these bases have been frozen. Work is continuing. What everybody is worried about is that Trump is going to accept a bad deal — they give us a single test site and dismantle a few other things, and in return they get a peace agreement,” he said, adding that Trump would then “declare victory, say he got more than any other American president ever got, and the threat would still be there.”
But Trump has already declared victory, and if he were to again meet with Kim, he would come out of that meeting doing it all over again. All of the things people assume Trump values most — wealth, class, fame — do not actually matter to the president; all that matters is the appearance of possessing those thing. It’s is all a big show, from his hair to world peace, and Trump is satisfied as long as he can convince people something is true. When he was a real estate developer, the worst that could happen when the facade fell apart was a few casinos going bankrupt. Now that he’s the president of the United States, it’s nuclear war. He doesn’t seem to know the difference.