• Managing Expectations Over North Korea

    June 10, 2018

    Tags: , , , ,
    Posted in: Embassy/State, Iran, Trump

    There is room for concern in tripartite negotiations as complex as those about to commence in Singapore among the U.S., and North and South Korea. There is certainly cause for optimism — Kim Jong Un reportedly fired top military leaders who may have dissented over his approaches to South Korea and the United States. And the three nations’ leaders have also never before sat down together to work out issues; this is all new.

    But there is no basis for claiming anything short of a developed full denuclearization deal left neatly tied with a ribbon on June 12’s doorstep means Donald Trump, or South Korean president Moon Jae In for that matter, has failed. Diplomacy simply does not work that way.

    And never mind the silliness Kim wants to step aside from global history-influencing issues to negotiate a McDonald’s for Pyongyang. And never mind the speculative Trump-centric psychodrama that replaces geopolitical analysis with twitter-level discourse about the friction that may develop between the “freewheeling American president and a paranoid Asian dictator” (such speculation always seems to leave out the critical third-party to the talks, South Korean president Moon Jae In.)

    One of the more balanced views of the Singapore summit comes from former State Department North Korean expert Joseph Yun. Yun’s February retirement as Special Representative for North Korea Policy triggered a round of dire statements that his absence left a “void at head of Trump’s Korea diplomacy.” Similar end-of-the-world predictions were made over the lack of an American ambassador in Seoul. The Council on Foreign Relations then assessed the chances of war on the Korean Peninsula at 50 percent.

    Ambassador Yun himself is much more a realist than most others commenting on the Peninsula. Writing in Foreign Affairs, he dismisses quickly those who expect some sort of complete denuclearization deal in about a week. Instead, he suggests “success” will include memorializing North Korea’s self-imposed moratoriums on nuclear and missile tests, and opening the Yongbyon nuclear facilities to the International Atomic Energy Agency. The North will need to provide a full list of its nuclear sites and an accounting of its fissile material.

    But even Joe Yun falls victim to unrealistic expectations, suggesting success includes a timeline for full denuclearization, and the elimination of North Korea’s intercontinental ballistic missiles, all by 2020 to silence skeptics. Yun was involved in Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s visit to Pyongyang in 2000 before North Korea even had nuclear weapons, and wouldn’t have been caught dead then suggesting such unrealistic results; the modest hope those 18 years ago was for follow-on meetings leading to a someday presidential summit. Ironically, then-President Bill Clinton held off, pending more interim progress, the result being that no real progress occurred over successive administrations. It took Moon Jae In to convince Washington North Korea is a uniquely top-down system and needs to be dealt with as such.

    Managing expectations, for the public and at the negotiating table, is key. History provides examples the principals in Singapore should be reviewing. Though imperfect, the 2015 Accord with Iran is a workable model. It focused on specific actions, independently verifiable by the International Atomic Energy Agency: for example, Iran would reduce its uranium stockpile to 300 kilograms at an enrichment level of 3.67 percent. The other parties to the Accord, especially the United States, were equally committed to specific actions over a timeline that extended decades. Nobody simply hoped peace would break out. Denuclearization is far more complicated than just offering sanctions relief over tea in return for boxing up the bad bombs.

    Deeper history offers the painstakingly complex Cold War nuclear treaties with the USSR, where success was measured by the continued absence of war and the continued sense war was increasingly unlikely. In contrast, look to the example of Libya (ridiculously cited in the positive by National Security advisor John Bolton and Vice President Mike Pence), which gave up a limited nuclear development program under threat; we are still watching the chaos in northern Africa unfold as the answer to how that worked out in the long run.

    Success is in the long-game, not in facile predictions of failure. William Johnson, a retired Foreign Service Officer who served as the State Department’s political adviser on special operations to the United States’ Pacific Command, explained “If ‘failed’ negotiations obviated further diplomatic options, Trump would need no ambassadors, and no advice from anyone on how to conduct diplomatic affairs. For we have failed on multiple occasions. But diplomacy is often a series of failures, and in the best case, the failures become incrementally less bad, until the least spectacular failure is declared to be success. Diplomacy is a game where the goalposts are supposed to move, and often, to move erratically. Trump needs a plan, with specific goals, each laid out neatly in a set of talking points, not because he will attain those goals, but because he needs to figure out how short of them he can afford to fall or how far beyond them he can push his interlocutor.”

    A process, not an event.

    Success in Singapore may include an agreement to formally end the Korean War (supported by some 80 percent of South Koreans. This would be a massive domestic win for Moon, himself the son of North Korean refugees, ahead of the June 13 South Korean by-elections.) Success will include humanitarian aid from the South, perhaps some modest investments from China, and scaled easing of sanctions from the American side. These are not concessions, but the give and take of negotiations, the stuff of diplomacy, where uneven forward movement can be a sign of strength and strategy. Success might be Kim formalizing the promises he has already voiced in his Panmunjom meetings with his South Korean counterpart. Success also will include keeping Moon Jae In in the center of unfolding events; no other nuclear negotiations in history have had such an interlocutor, one who shares goals near equally with both other parties, and one who can talk to each as a partner.

    If people demand Trump bull into the room and say “Nukes, number one and we’re done,” the process will indeed fail. Wipe clean the cartoon image of Kim as a madman. North Korea currently has nuclear weapons as the guarantor of its survival; that is a starting point, not a debatable one. If the United States and South Korea want the North to give up those weapons, something has to replace them as that assurance of survival. The ask here is extraordinary; only one nation in history that self-developed nuclear weapons, South Africa, ever gave them up, and that was because their purpose, the survival of the white apartheid regime, disappeared into history.

    Success in Singapore will be an agreement to meet again, and again after that; it should not be forgotten the more modest 2015 Iranian Accord took 20 months to negotiate. Success means forwarding the process of building trust and creating an infrastructure to solve the inevitable problems (sadly, yes, there will likely be tweets) that accompany the often herky-jerky path forward. Anyone demanding more than that from the June 12 meeting wants it to fail.

    Related Articles:

    Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

  • Recent Comments

    • John Poole said...


      We are supposed to be hopeful about the prospect that leaders are “talking” and thus not pushing buttons to vaporize we pathetic proles. Americans deified JFK after the Cuban missile crisis for not reflexly using nukes. Trump longs for that same deification but on a global scale and we encourage his monstrous needs!

      06/10/18 2:55 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...


      Stormy isn’t the only one who has Demented by the balls. NK can play hardball with Demented, who has to play his long con to avoid meeting with Mueller. KJU will have Demented on his hands and knees begging for it.

      06/10/18 6:56 PM | Comment Link

    • teri said...


      The presence of John Bolton is of great concern. and may make the crucial difference. I was surprised to see that he was hugged tight as a barnacle to Trump’s side during the G7, but then realized that he was there because the G7 was simply on the travel route to Singapore. Trump made lots of very bizarre and schizo suggestions during the meetings (‘the US is unfairly treated vis a vis trade so we will stick to the tariffs’, followed by ‘hey, let’s get rid of all tariffs’, followed by ‘I hate all of you and we will just no longer trade with any of you ever again’). Some of that blabber may have been due to Bolton, who is the current occupant of what passes for Trump’s brain, and who wants his chance to start some more wars with whomever is convenient at any given moment, even if they are allies.

      The US sabotaged its own agreements that it had worked out with N Korea in 1994 and 2007, by not fulfilling its end of the bargain. We then blamed CHINA for the N Koreans developing nukes.

      Bolton played a significant role in the US’ reneging of the ’07 six-party agreement.

      He wrote an article earlier this year in which he baldly claimed the US would have a legal right to preemptively bomb N Korea, and just recently offered the opinion (in a televised interview) that he hoped any diplomatic efforts would fail so that the US can proceed with what he calls an inevitable and desirable war.

      And now the guy who has already said he wants to get this diplomatic crap out of the way so we can go ahead and bomb N Korea, this vile person who is openly trying to sabotage any chance of peace on the Korean peninsula so he can have his jolly little war, is Trump’s main “advisor”.

      Added to that is the remark that Defense Secretary Mattis made a month ago; that he is not particularly focused on Syria right now, he is more preoccupied with preparing for a “possible conflict” with N Korea.

      I know his fans think Trump is doing some inscrutable “strategic strategary” every time he opens his mouth, but he really has no idea what the fuck he is doing. He just blurts out whatever stream-of-conscience bullshit that flits in and out of his head from one moment to the next. He wants a Nobel Peace Prize to match Obama’s undeserved award, and that may help to keep the gruesome Bolton ideas at bay, but I see no sign that Trump has any ideas of his own to counter them. I can only hope that Trump is satisfied with a start to peace (he can say he told everyone this was just a dialogue, not an actual agreement of any sort) and has enough sense to leave it up to Moon Jae-In to do the heavy lifting after Trump and his purse-pet, Bolton, exit the scene.

      I know people get tired of the Trump-bashing, but there is something seriously wrong with the dude. And it doesn’t have anything to do with Russia or the election. There is just some very bad wiring in his head, some extreme lack of the maturity one would expect in a normal adult. Add that to his ignorance on all topics, which makes him dependent on some dubious advisors for all decisions and information, and we have a bad situation.

      All I’m hoping for is that nobody drops a nuke on anyone else’s ass and that those fuckers in Congress don’t abolish Social Security during my lifetime. I’ll call that a win.

      06/11/18 6:06 AM | Comment Link

    • teri said...


      And here come the Democrats to save the day! NOT.

      7 Democratic senators (Durbin, Warner, Feinstein, Leahy, Brown, Schumer, and Melendez) have written a letter to Trump saying that any agreement must be permanent, subject to inspections being carried out at any time and NK’s disarmament must include not only the nukes, but all ballistic missiles, too. The thinking here is that the US can have an unlimited supply of any type of weapon it wants, including the weaponization of space, and most of the rest of the world will be allowed to arm themselves with rocks and some pointy sticks.

      And the thought of peace is terrifying to a lot of the people in charge of things.

      06/11/18 8:40 AM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...


      Rumor has it Demented offered California to NK and Stormy for Kim in the deal.

      06/11/18 9:13 AM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...


      Fuck Trump

      Speaking of managing expectations, should we expect DeNiro to behave in a higher standard than our presidense who voices obscenities and fucks someone every day?

      06/11/18 9:19 AM | Comment Link

    • John Poole said...


      My Trump fantasy is that he wants the same deification Americans and the world gave to JFK for reflexively not starting a nuclear war back in the Cuban Crisis. I said this before I know. My other fantasy is that no one at the head table knows the Heimlich maneuver if Bolton starts to choke on his shushi.

      06/11/18 9:36 AM | Comment Link

    • John Poole said...


      Teri- it appears that the main stream news corporations are not content today with being informing conduits between the rulers and the populace. They want a say in shaping domestic and foreign policy. Their headlines of, “Trump had better do this or else”, are an awful development.

      06/11/18 5:57 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...



      The mainstream media are the propaganda wing of the Wall Street War Party. They bought the Congress. They just want a return on their investment. If Trump wants to get paid, he will do what it wants.

      06/12/18 9:00 AM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...


      North Korea is a distraction from the real threat to US- The Wall Street War Party, including the Dumbocrat Party, which refuses to address the social inequality that led to the election of Trump. It is the defender of the economic suffering that plagues over half the country. It will not fight to pay workers a living wage. It will not defy the pharmaceutical and insurance industries to provide Medicare for all. It will not curb the voracious appetite of the military that is disemboweling the country and promoting the prosecution of futile and costly foreign wars. It will not restore our lost civil liberties, including the right to privacy, freedom from government surveillance, and due process. It will not get corporate and dark money out of politics. It will not demilitarize our police and reform a prison system that has 25 percent of the world’s prisoners although the United States has only 5 percent of the world’s population. It plays to the margins, especially in election seasons, refusing to address substantive political and social problems and instead focusing on narrow cultural.

      And we think Kim screws his own people.

      06/12/18 9:17 AM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...


      Connecting your series of articles, Trump doesn’t want to fight a war on two fronts by making peace with NK so he can remove our troops in that theater so we can fight a war in Iran in a theater of the absurd. Trump shouldn’t be planning to make money building beautiful hotels in NK, but by building beautiful bomb shelters here instead. New York is prime real estate.

      06/13/18 9:12 AM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...


      Is New York City burning?

      A former high-ranking government official who is an intelligence expert regarding nuclear weapons told The Daily Wire in an exclusive interview that former President Barack Obama’s Iran nuclear deal is a complete failure as Iran most likely has had nuclear weapons for over a decade.

      Dr. Peter Vincent Pry is the executive director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security, and director of the U.S. Nuclear Strategy Forum, both Congressional advisory boards, and served as the chief of staff on the Congressional EMP Commission, the Congressional Strategic Posture Commission, the House Armed Services Committee, and the CIA.

      “I think Iran has already got the bomb,” Pry told The Daily Wire. “I think Iran has already got nuclear weapons.”

      Pry explained that the U.S. has no credible verification system setup with Iran, and hostile nations have fooled the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) multiple times.

      And if Trump is ignorant of this situation when he launches an attack on Iran, his plan could blowup in his face.

      06/13/18 9:20 AM | Comment Link

    • John Poole said...


      Bauer- the “free press” mantra is by now a tired touted antidote to tyranny. You aptly point out the MSM works for the war profiteers. The Pentagon is this Unholy American Empire’s official Vatican where the two sham parties are cardinals wearing either blue or red robes. We need a second reformation badly.

      06/14/18 8:50 AM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...



      When the munchkins realize the Rich have been dealing from the bottom of the deck, the house of cards will fall. The debt financial collapse will make US look like Venezuela. Reformation? Try revolution.

      06/14/18 2:07 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...


      Canada and Mexico better build their walls.

      06/14/18 2:10 PM | Comment Link

    • John Poole said...


      Bauer the good ole USA doesn’t do revolutions. We’re all entangled and woven into this tapestry travesty which means none of us dare pull on a loose thread.

      06/14/18 8:05 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...


      Revolution is in the eye of the beholder. Trumpism is revolution to be charitable. It needs people who are willing to believe an idiot can be presidense.

      06/14/18 10:48 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...


      Success for Trump is North Korea will offer him political asylum when the Gov grabs him by the balls.

      06/15/18 11:07 AM | Comment Link

    • John Poole said...


      Bauer- it doesn’t seem likely that Trump will be removed from office without a period of historically unprecedented turmoil. Such turmoil might end up being worse than anything Trump can actually engender due to his mismanagement and flawed decision making.

      06/16/18 8:59 AM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...


      Trump will leave quickly when he realizes to stay will hurt him…financially. He will strike a deal to resign to avoid the IRS coming after him. Just like Capone, these are the guys who will get him.

      06/16/18 9:19 AM | Comment Link

    • John Poole said...


      Should we place a bet? I say Trump will stay in office until a forced resignation which may not work. The guy likes the power of being POTUS which is understandable.

      06/16/18 7:48 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...



      Forced resignation to avoid impeachment? I have seen this movie before. I would call it The Dark Moscow Tower or the Two Towers. But then it could be –

      Three Days of the Dodo

      Trumpie is in quite a bind. Deep State on one side and Putin on the other. He can’t rat on Putin. Putin’ enemies don’t live very long. Can Trumpie make a deal with Mueller?

      Trumpie: I’d like to go back to New York.

      Mueller: You have not much future there. It will happen this way. You may be walking. Maybe the first sunny day of the spring. And a car will slow beside you, and a door will open, and someone you know, maybe even trust, will get out of the car. And he will smile, a becoming smile. But he will leave open the door of the car and offer to give you a lift.

      06/16/18 9:47 PM | Comment Link

    Leave A Comment

    Mail (will not be published) (required)