Conventional Wisdom on N. Korea Has ‘Gone Out the Window’ Under Trump

Michael Pillsbury, Michael Fuchs, Walid Phares praised president's strategy for bringing about concessions from 'Little Rocket Man'

Foreign affairs and defense expert Michael Pillsbury said Thursday on Fox News’ “The Ingraham Angle” that “the entire set of conventional assumptions about North Korea has gone out the window” under President Donald Trump.

Pillsbury, director of the Center on Chinese Strategy at the Hudson Institute and an assistant undersecretary of defense for policy planning under former President Ronald Reagan, spoke hours after Trump shocked the world by agreeing to meet with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un by May.

The North Korean leader had requested the meeting with Trump “as soon as possible,” according to South Korean officials who previously met with Kim and conveyed his request to the president.

North Korea also made significant concessions by agreeing to halt nuclear and ballistic missile tests while preparations for the meeting proceed, and recognizing the need for continued joint military exercises between the U.S. and South Korea.

“It’s time to celebrate a great victory when it happens,” Pillsbury said, noting that “the mainstream left-wing media has been beside themselves — that this really can’t be happening, or they don’t really know how to explain it.”

“It wasn’t purchased. There’s no concessions. The American exercises can continue for the next two months. The entire set of conventional assumptions about North Korea has gone out the window,” Pillsbury said.

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Host Laura Ingraham attributed the wholly unexpected turn of events to Trump’s willingness to defy convention foreign-policy wisdom — and to the way in which he “talked tough” from the outset of his presidential administration.

“[Trump] didn’t get there because he played, you know, patty-cake with Kim Jong-un,” Ingraham said. “He said, ‘You come near this country with a nuclear weapon, we will destroy you.’ That’s basically what he said.”

But mainstream media outlets, Democrats and GOP Establishment members freaked out during nearly every step of the way, as Ingraham and Pillsbury noted. Trump’s critics focused particularly on his multiple tweets warning of “fire and fury” in response to North Korean aggression, and on mocking Kim as the “Little Rocket Man.”

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“The critics have focused on the president’s tweets. What they have missed is everything else,” Fox News national security and foreign affairs analyst Walid Phares said. “They did not see that the task forces were surrounding North Korea. They did not see that we were putting pressure on China, that we were mobilizing Japan and South Korea. It was well-crafted. But they missed the big game.”

Pillsbury agreed, noting that he believed China was “equally surprised as we are that Rocket Man” made these concessions.

“The Chinese didn’t help very much, but they helped a little. So they’re going to try to take credit for this as much as they can,” Pillsbury said. “I think this whole plan began during the transition. I think it’s been well thought out. President Trump, when he was campaigning, did not make North Korea his number-one issue. He did it after the transition.”

Michael Fuchs, a senior fellow at the liberal Center for American Progress who specializes in U.S. foreign policy, said the “big question” prompted by the day’s big news is, “What is the plan?”

As a result, Fuchs said, “We have rushed in a complete 180 from talk of potential war and military conflict to a summit meeting. So I do think the real question now is, what is the North Korean game here, and what strategy does the United States have to actually extract real concessions from the North Koreans?”

Fuchs warned the U.S. must “be very clear-eyed about what can be realistically achieved here with North Korea.”

Pillsbury agreed, noting he has “a lot of confidence in President Trump’s team.”

Related: ‘Trump Has Changed the Game,’ North Korea Experts Say

“But the main thing is the negotiations, while they go on, which could be a year or two, will result in a freeze in both nuclear tests and sale tests,” Pillsbury said. “So now time is in our side.”

Trump took to Twitter late Thursday to tout the news of the day, writing, “Kim Jong Un talked about denuclearization with the South Korean Representatives, not just a freeze. Also, no missile testing by North Korea during this period of time. Great progress being made but sanctions will remain until an agreement is reached. Meeting being planned!”

PoliZette writer Kathryn Blackhurst can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter.

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