Nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism. Supported by readers.


Singapore summit outcome? It all depends on what happens next, and then next …

As far as those who say Trump gave Kim Jong Un a huge undeserved gift by shaking his hand and meeting with him, I have no use for that argument.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore on Tuesday.
REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

My take on the Singapore summit:

Nothing of global or geopolitical consequence was accomplished. Gestures, like the release of some hostages, are welcome, but new hostages can be taken if the new Kim-Trump bromance goes south, which it certainly could.

As you have likely already heard, the language that the U.S. accepted, which establishes the goal of this process as the “complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” is a commitment Kim Jong Un has agreed to in the past, the meaning of which is ambiguous, and which his previous agreement to did not prevent him from acquiring the very substantial nuclear capability he recently achieved.

Without different, clearer language and a way of verifying compliance, it is no breakthrough. Everything depends on what happens next, and then next, and then next and for many steps into the future.

Article continues after advertisement

Depending on the future, we might look back on this week’s summit as an important event for the world (in halting nuclear proliferations, for a relaxation of the intense perpetual state of tension on their border between the two Koreas, and for the long-suffering people of North Korea, which is one of the world’s poorest nations as a result of its isolation, among other causes).

To say that none of that is guaranteed is an understatement. One small step down that better path has been taken.

As far as those who say Trump gave Kim Jong Un a huge undeserved gift by shaking his hand and meeting with him, I have no use for that argument. Handshakes and talks are generally good, and better than the alternatives. Denying recognition and diplomatic relations doesn’t seem to have accomplished much.

Of course, Mr. Trump is claiming a colossal historic accomplishment. What else is new? I’m trying to care less about what he says and more about what he does and what happens as a result. It’s hard. I still believe in the importance of factual accuracy and reasonable rhetoric. But in this matter, I prefer not to get completely distracted by the need to focus on Trump’s inaccuracies and self-glorifying statements.

If you would like a smart, calm, fair-minded rundown of some of the factual problems contained in the president’s post-summit interview with George Stephanopoulos, here is the Washington Post’s effort by their great fact-checker, Glenn Kessler.

I have no idea what the odds are of getting to an agreement that will clearly and verifiably lead to North Korea peacefully giving up its nukes. I do not particularly subscribe to the notion, promoted often by Trump, that the odds of getting such a deal are greatly enhanced by his great skills as a dealmaker. But if he and his team and King Jong Un can reach such a deal, I will congratulate them both and the rest of us earthlings.