Maybe the most dubious item on President Trump’s self-professed “historic” list of accomplishments is the progress he claims to have made with North Korea. Since meeting with Kim Jong-un in Singapore last year, Trump has touted his loving relationship with the dictator while promising that the North Korean nuclear threat is a thing of the past. None of this squares with reality, as we were reminded for the umpteenth time Tuesday morning. Take it from National Intelligence Director Dan Coats:
“We currently assess that North Korea will seek to retain its WMD capabilities and is unlikely to completely give up its nuclear weapons and production capabilities because its leaders ultimately view nuclear weapons as critical to regime survival. Our assessment is bolstered by our observations of some activity that is inconsistent with full denuclearization. While we assess that sanctions on exports have been effective and largely maintained, North Korea seeks to mitigate the effects of the U.S.-led pressure campaign through diplomatic engagement, counter pressure against the sanctions regime and direct sanctions evasion.”
Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats says North Korea is “unlikely to completely give up it's nuclear weapons and production capabilities” pic.twitter.com/REaP3Jlwy6
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) January 29, 2019
This sounds like a pretty credible assessment. In fact, it sounds about as credible as such an assessment could possibly sound. North Korea is not denuclearizing. They never were, and they’re not going to in the future. Anyone with half a measure of common sense and a vague understanding of the last 30 years of U.S-North Korea relations knew this long before Coats made it the official position of the intelligence community on Tuesday. Unfortunately, the president of the United States possesses neither of these things.
Trump will undoubtedly dismiss this assessment and continue to maintain that North Korea is denuclearizing. The findings of the intelligence community mean nothing compared to the novelty “love letters” Kim has sent to Trump, the most recent coming earlier this year. “Kim Jong Un says North Korea will not make or test nuclear weapons, or give them to others – & he is ready to meet President Trump anytime.’ PBS News Hour,” the president tweeted. “I also look forward to meeting with Chairman Kim who realizes so well that North Korea possesses great economic potential!”
The president has of course spoken in a similarly deferential tone about Russian President Vladimir Putin, another adversarial autocrat who has been working Trump over like a cheap punching bag. Despite the intelligence community’s assessment that the Kremlin meddled in the 2016 election, Trump publicly sided with Putin after the two met in Helsinki, Finland, last summer. Days earlier Coats, warned that the “warning lights are blinking red again” regarding Russian interference.
On Tuesday, Coats again stressed that Russia’s efforts to subvert American democracy are still ongoing. “The Kremlin is stepping up its campaign to divide Western, political and security institutions,” he said. “We expect Russia will continue to wage its information war against democracies and to use social media to attempt to divide our societies.”
Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats says the 2020 election will be another target for Russia and other foreign countries that are likely to use new tactics to target US elections https://t.co/vIZ7POXmsH pic.twitter.com/HoSNhl8IlS
— CNN Newsroom (@CNNnewsroom) January 29, 2019
Not only are North Korea and Russia threats to the United States, they’re reportedly working together. The Washington Post reported on Tuesday that Russian officials made a secret deal with North Korea last fall “aimed at resolving deadlocked negotiations with the Trump administration over its nuclear weapons program,” according to U.S. officials familiar with the situation. If North Korea dismantled their nuclear program, Russia would provide North Korea with a nuclear power plant.
“The Russians are very opportunistic when it comes to North Korea, and this is not the first time they’ve pursued an energy stake in Korea,” Victor Cha, a former White House staff member who the Trump considered appointing ambassador to South Korea last year, told the Post. “Previous administrations have not welcomed these Russian overtures, but with Trump, you never know because he doesn’t adhere to traditional thinking.”
Trump’s only public statement on Tuesday was a tweet bashing a former White House staffer named Cliff Simms, whose newly published tell-all book portrays the administration in an unflattering light. “He pretended to be an insider when in fact he was nothing more than a gofer,” wrote the president. “He signed a non-disclosure agreement. He is a mess!”
Trump and Kim are set to rekindle their love affair in late February.