The Suffolk Journal

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Commentary: Korean conflict on the horizon – or not?

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After months of discussion surrounding a planned summit to disarm North Korea of nuclear weapons, the historic meeting was cancelled in a letter penned by President Donald Trump, citing Kim Jong-un’s violent rhetoric.

 

Critics pounced. On Twitter, many lashed out over a possible failure in negotiations on the part of Trump. Foreign policy officials worried that Trump failed by not sending a delegation to meet with officials in Pyongyang ahead of the summit.

 

Much of this criticism of Trump is misplaced. For the first time in a long while, it seems Trump may have made the right call. To only send a newly sworn in secretary of state as opposed to a well-trained diplomatic envoy to meet with the most problematic leader in the world was a rookie move.

 

But, there’s no excuse for such a lack of preparedness.

 

The U.S. needs more time to lay the groundwork for a serious conversation with Kim about denuclearization and, eventually, reintegration into the international economy. The news from late May that a high-level diplomat was en route to the U.S. was promising in that respect. While no one but the most expert voices will be able to dictate how the process works, it should include a series of negotiations concerning the status of North Korea-U.S. relations, North Korean aggression, and the importance of bilateral agreements as opposed to unilateral ones.

 

More importantly, Trump’s willingness to cancel the summit sends a strong message to North Korea: the U.S. is not playing around. Kim’s belligerence has worked in the past at slowing down the pace of international aggression towards North Korea. Allowing this was one of the key mistakes the Obama administration made. Perhaps if he sees the that the U.S. is serious, if not controlled by a more callous and deal-oriented president, Kim will accede to international demands to abolish his nuclear program.

 

Trump was right to call off the summit rather than deal with the petty belligerence of a hermit nation on the verge of collapse. North Korea needed to be reminded who needs this deal more. It certainly isn’t the United States, with the largest arsenal of nuclear weapons in the world and an advanced, mostly secret defense system that could sink Kim’s nukes before they even left the ground.

 

With new talk of holding the meeting this summer from Trump, all that remains is a ‘when’. When talks and negotiations occur, Trump will have a chance to broker one of the most sought after deals in modern international affairs. He has in the past proven himself to be incapable of dealing with mundane domestic affairs, and has embarrassed the U.S. on a number of occasions. A deal with North Korea would not erase those failures, but certainly put his presidency back on track to accomplish something of positive merit– now more than a year into his term.

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Commentary: Korean conflict on the horizon – or not?