Since the day President Donald Trump took office, North Korea has posed what is undoubtedly his gravest national security threat. Over the ensuing months, Trump and Kim Jong Un have exchanged fiery rhetoric and threats while the U.S. and the United Nations have increased dramatically the economic sanctions and pressure on the rogue regime. And yet, the mad dictator has remained firmly on the path to an ever-increasing arsenal of nuclear weapons, continuing his norms-defying missile tests even as the U.S. warns him of retaliation.
And then suddenly, a change of heart?
“North Korea is willing to talk to the United States about giving up its nuclear weapons, South Korea said Tuesday, in a remarkable development that followed unprecedented meetings in Pyongyang,” reported CNN on Wednesday. “North Korean leader Kim Jong Un also has agreed to refrain from conducting nuclear and missile tests while engaging in dialogue with South Korea, Seoul’s national security chief Chung Eui-yong said after returning from talks with Kim.”
Could we be looking at the unthinkable? Did Trump’s tough talk – so maligned and criticized by the elitist left – actually do what three presidents before him failed to do? Have the economic sanctions so crippled Kim’s regime that he has no choice but to submit to international inspections? Are we finally nearing the end of this fool’s reign of terror and bombast?
To be sure, Kim’s new posture is surprising given the way he has waved the saber for years. On the other hand, his family has a history of making denuclearization promises and then breaking them, so the Trump administration cannot afford to take his most recent “change of heart” at face value. On at least six previous occasions over the last twenty years, the Kim regime has entered into a non-proliferation agreement only to violate it in due time. Unfortunately, they are sometimes able to squeeze their way out of a tight jam while entering these phony agreements – agreements that only serve to give the regime safe harbor while building more weapons.
For his part, President Trump sounded hopeful and skeptical in equal measures when asked about Kim’s proposal on Tuesday.
“We’ve come certainly a long way, at least rhetorically, with North Korea,” he told reporters. “It would be a great thing for the world, it would be a great thing for North Korea, it would be a great thing for the peninsula, but we’ll see what happens. I hope they’re sincere.”
Sincere or not, Kim’s demands may ask more of the Trump White House than the U.S. is willing to give. North Korea has repeatedly demanded the removal of U.S. troops from the Korean Peninsula, a concession we are unlikely to make – particularly given the regime’s history of deception and broken promises.