‘Trump Has Changed the Game,’ North Korea Experts Say
South Korean official credits the president's policies and pressures for dramatic offer from leader of rogue regime; others urge caution
North Korea’s dramatic offer on Thursday to give up its nuclear weapons program is a clear sign that President Donald Trump’s attempts to squeeze the dictatorial communist regime are working, according to foreign-policy experts.
South Korean national security adviser Chung Eui-yong passed on the offer from North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un and then announced it to the world in front of the White House.
Fred Fleitz, a former CIA analyst whose book on North Korea will be published next Wednesday, told LifeZette that Trump deserves credit for forcing a dramatic turnaround.
“What this proves is how fundamentally President Trump’s policies have transformed the relationship … Trump has changed the game,” he said.
Chung also credited the Trump administration for the North Korean overture.
“His leadership and his maximum pressure policy, together with international solidarity, brought us to this juncture,” he told reporters.
Chung said Kim expressed his commitment to denuclearization and pledged to halt further nuclear and ballistic missile tests. In addition, Chung said the North Korean leader recognizes the need for routine joint military exercises to continue between the United States and South Korea. That is a significant concession for a regime that has made disrupting those exercises a top goal.
Most dramatically, Chung said Kim “expressed his eagerness to meet President Trump as soon as possible” and that the president responded that he would do so by May. The White House later confirmed that Trump is willing to meet Kim but did not confirm the timetable.
Fleitz, who is senior vice president of policy and programs at the Washington-based Center for Security Policy, said it would be a mistake for Trump to meet Kim without significant concessions, given that country’s long history of reneging on international agreements.
“We don’t know how sincere the North Koreans are, and they’re going to have to do a lot to prove their sincerity,” he said.
Fleitz said sanctions ratcheted up under Trump have taken a toll.
“The sanctions are much tougher, and they’re being enforced,” he said.
Fleitz also said the United States must demand four things — unfettered inspections with no restrictions; a complete accounting of the regime’s nuclear and missile programs; a shutdown of all nuclear facilities; and the removal of spent nuclear fuel rods.
In addition, Fleitz said, the Trump administration should avoid the traps that have ensnared his predecessors. “We have to have negotiators who are willing to walk away,” he said.
Robert Kaufman, a professor of public policy at Pepperdine University, who this year is a visiting conservative professor at the University of Colorado Boulder’s Center for Western Thought, agreed North Korea is responding to pressure. But he urged the Trump administration to proceed with caution.
“Part of this is very dangerous … Before we get euphoric, let’s remember how we got into this in the first place,” he said. “We have to keep the pressure on.”
Previous administrations made deals with North Korea only to catch the regime cheating on its commitments, Kaufman said. He said U.S. officials need to be “very careful not to let the negotiations become Prozac.”
Kaufman said the United States should insist on a final deal that resembles the one America struck with Libya, in which the regime turned over its nuclear materials.
“Look at the Iran deal as a template of what not to do,” he said.
(photo credit, homepage image: Donald Trump, CC BY-SA 2.0, by Gage Skidmore / Kim Jong-un Visiting Berlin, CC BY-SA 2.0, by driver Photographer; photo credit, article image: Donald Trump, CC BY-SA 2.0, by Gage Skidmore)