Trump searches for credit on North Korea nuclear deal

President Donald Trump speaks to reporters on the North Lawn of the White House, Friday, June 15, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Updated 16 June 2018
0

Trump searches for credit on North Korea nuclear deal

  • Trump’s frustrations are all the more notable now during the honeymoon phase of the deal, when a triumphant cloud of goodwill has yet to be tempered by reality
  • Facing questions about his public embrace of Kim and the North Korean’s autocratic leadership style — including what Trump said was a joke about the obedience of the autocratic Kim’s advisers

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump credits his accord with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un with saving tens of millions of people from nuclear war. Now he just has to get everyone else on board.
Frustrated with lukewarm backing from congressional Republicans, criticism from Democratic opponents and skepticism from allies and the media, Trump made a stop Friday on the North Lawn of the White House to promote the nuclear deal that critics have criticized as vague and lacking in clear objectives.
The surprise appearance on “Fox & Friends,” followed by a combative round of questions with reporters, came two days after Trump returned from Singapore expecting a hero’s welcome and tweeting that the world could “sleep well.” Trump — who has long pitched himself as a master dealmaker — feels the agreement represents a radical step toward solving an intractable foreign policy problem and has been publicly and privately grumbling that not everyone agrees.
Trump’s frustrations are all the more notable now during the honeymoon phase of the deal, when a triumphant cloud of goodwill has yet to be tempered by reality. The US goal of complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization, even in the most optimistic case, will likely take years — and that’s assuming North Korea won’t violate the accord, as it has every previous nuclear agreement.
Facing questions about his public embrace of Kim and the North Korean’s autocratic leadership style — including what Trump said was a joke about the obedience of the autocratic Kim’s advisers — the president said he was doing what is necessary for peace.
“I don’t want to see a nuclear weapon destroy you and your family,” Trump told reporters. He added: “If you’re fair, when I came in, people thought we were probably going to war with North Korea. ... If we did, millions of people would have been killed.”
The joint statement signed this week by Trump and Kim promises to work toward a denuclearized Korean peninsula, but includes no details on how or when weapons might be eliminated or even reduced. The summit marked the first meeting between a US and North Korean leader in six decades of hostility and did mark a reduction in tensions from last fall, when Trump and Kim were trading insults that raised the specter of war.
Trump emerged from the meeting convinced he could sell the vaguely worded deal, as evidenced by his hour-plus press conference in Singapore immediately after the sit-down. Since then, he has sent out a battery of tweets and messages, peaking with his Friday visit to the White House driveway. The impromptu press availability underscored Trump’s isolation, increasingly relying on his own intuition, as he consults with a shrinking bench of advisers and is at odds with longtime international allies.
“He’s his own communications director. Once again his press team is trying to catch up to him,” said GOP consultant Alex Conant. “He’s focused more on the optics than the policy, which is a trend we’ve seen throughout this presidency.”
Trump also issued a video message Friday, defending the nuclear agreement and saying the US must pursue a chance to avert nuclear conflict “at all costs.” Trump said: “Our world has seen more than enough conflict. If there’s a chance at peace, if there’s a chance to end the horrible threat of nuclear conflict, then we must pursue it at all costs.”
One key frustration for Trump is his belief that his predecessor would have gotten a different reception — and that he should receive credit for making an agreement on an issue where former President Barack Obama was unable to make progress.
Trump has been calling lawmakers to express enthusiasm for the agreement — but also complaining that he has not had more robust support from GOP lawmakers, said a person with knowledge of the calls, who spoke on condition of anonymity to share internal conversations. He also has been arguing that he has already done more than Obama.
Among Trump’s most vocal supporters is Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who led negotiations with Pyongyang to set up the summit and will hold talks with the North to work out vital details of the deal.
The challenge of defending the agreement became apparent earlier this week when Pompeo lashed out at a reporter asking how the US would verify the North’s compliance with the deal.
“I find that question insulting and ridiculous and, frankly, ludicrous,” Pompeo said in Seoul, where he was seeking to reassure US ally South Korea about Trump’s negotiation, including a surprise halt to joint military exercises involving the US and South Korea.
Trump’s vigorous press strategy comes after a bare-bones messaging strategy around the actual summit, after the broadly worded joint statement signed by the president and Kim raised questions White House officials seemed unable to answer. Trump’s announcement that he would halt the exercises appeared to catch Pentagon officials unaware and they initially said there was no change to planned exercises.
White House staff said Trump’s seat-of-the-pants changes on the day of the summit undercut their plans to roll out the agreement. Those plans included trying to change the time of his press conference — causing a logistical headache of moving the media into place — to deciding he personally wanted to reveal the contents of the deal live. He changed his mind after news photographs showing the signed agreement text appeared on television.
The president’s frustration also comes as his West Wing continues to hollow out. The latest departure news is that White House legislative director Marc Short has told staff he’ll leave this summer, said two White House officials who were not authorized to speak publicly. And rumors persist that more top aides are looking for the exits, as it becomes increasingly challenging to find new hires.


From ‘minga’ to ‘Maga’ — how the UN heard two world views

US President Donald Trump during a working luncheon hosted by the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, front, at the United Nations in New York Tuesday. (AFP)
Updated 26 September 2018
0

From ‘minga’ to ‘Maga’ — how the UN heard two world views

  • Trump had his own ideas for solving those very same problems, but they owed little to the minga philosophy

NEW YORK: The president of the United Nations General Assembly, Maria Espinosa, introduced the concept of “minga” to the packed audience at the organization’s HQ on East 44th Street in New York; but an hour later President Donald Trump had reasserted his own view of the world, under the “Maga” banner.
Opening the first day of the UN general debate — the centerpiece of the organization’s annual get together — Espinosa, from Ecuador, explained that minga was a principle by which the people of the Andes lived their lives. Its main tenet was the principle of living and working together in harmony for the betterment of all — an idea sure to win approval at the UN.
With minga the world could solve the big issues it faces, from gender inequality through the environment down to peace and security.
Trump had his own ideas for solving those very same problems, but they owed little to the minga philosophy. Instead, he saw the world through the prism of “strong independent nations” which together would advance the state of mankind.
And, as he made clear, the US was the leader of this band of nation, so his oft-declared amibition of “making America great again” (Maga) would bring the rest of the world along with it to greatness.
“Inside everyone listening here today is the heart of a patriot, filled with the passion that inspired reform and revolutions, economic good, technological progress and works of art. Sovereign independent nations are the only vehicles where freedom, democracy and peace have been enhanced. So we have to protect them,” the president explained.
Not everyone in the audience agreed with Trump’s unilateral view of the world, nor with America’s perceived role in it.
Before he had taken the podium — in presidential dark grey suit, white shirt and long red tie — the two previous speakers had stressed the traditional UN values of collectivism and multilateralism, and received warm applause from the delegates for doing so.
Two South American leaders, President Michel Timer of Brazil and President Lenin Moreno of Ecuador, both talked about the challenges of multilateralism, and obliquely criticized the US over its long-running embargo of Cuba, as well as what they said was the role of American banks in dominating their economies, to the detriment of their people.
The UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, said that multilateralism was “under fire exactly when we need it the most, and, in contrast to Trump’s later comments about trade deficits, explained that what the world was really suffering from was a “trust deficit”, which could sink the international order in a bloody quagmire similar to the First World War.
President Trump made light of such dire warnings. In fact, he was adamant that the future was good, with a booming US economy, strong stock markets, full employment, tax reform and increased see spending on the US military.
“In the two years of my presidency, we have seen more progress that almost any other administration in the history of this country,” he said. The delegates murmured in response.