By: By Mark Landler – nytimes.com – June 12, 2018
In a day of personal diplomacy that began with a choreographed handshake and ended with a freewheeling news conference, President Trump deepened his wager on North Korea’s leader on Tuesday, arguing that their rapport would bring the swift demise of that country’s nuclear program.
Mr. Trump, acting more salesman than statesman, used flattery, cajolery and even a slickly produced promotional video to try to make the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, a partner in peace. He also gave Mr. Kim a significant concession: no more military drills between the United States and South Korea, a change that surprised South Korea and the Pentagon.
After hours of face-to-face contact, in which Mr. Trump even gave Mr. Kim a peek inside his bulletproof presidential limousine, he said he believed that Mr. Kim’s desire to end North Korea’s seven-decade-old confrontation with the United States was sincere.
“He was very firm in the fact that he wants to do this,” Mr. Trump said at the news conference before leaving for home. While cautioning that he could not be sure, Mr. Trump said, “I think he might want to do this as much or even more than me.”
Still, a joint statement signed by the two after their meeting — the first ever between a sitting American president and a North Korean leader — was as skimpy as the summit meeting was extravagant. It called for the “complete denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula but provided neither a timeline nor any details about how the North would go about giving up its weapons.
The statement, which American officials negotiated intensely with the North Koreans and had hoped would be a road map to a nuclear deal, was a page and a half of diplomatic language recycled from statements negotiated by the North over the last two decades.
It made no mention of Mr. Trump’s longstanding — supposedly nonnegotiable — demand that North Korea submit to complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization. It made no mention of North Korea’s missiles. It did not even set a firm date for a follow-up meeting, though the president said he would invite Mr. Kim to the White House when the time was right.
“This is what North Korea has wanted from the beginning, and I cannot believe that our side allowed it,” said Joseph Y. Yun, a former State Department official who has negotiated with the North. “I am quite simply surprised that months of negotiations produced so little.”
On Wednesday morning, Mr. Trump said on Twitter that there was “no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea.” He added, “President Obama said that North Korea was our biggest and most dangerous problem. No longer — sleep well tonight!”
If the summit meeting’s outcome was short on substance, it still helped replace the fears of a nuclear showdown with diplomacy. For Mr. Trump, the spare joint statement seemed almost beside the point. He said the meeting was successful because it had reduced tensions.
Mr. Trump said he had taken Mr. Kim’s measure during three hours of meetings — plus a lunch of prawns and crispy pork — and found him genuine in his desire to lead North Korea out of a spiraling confrontation with the United States.
The president claimed two immediate results from the summit meeting. He said Mr. Kim volunteered to dismantle a facility that tests engines for ballistic missiles. For his part, the president agreed to halt joint military exercises with South Korea, part of what the South Korean government views as a bulwark of its alliance with the United States.
Mr. Trump said the exercises — he referred to them as “war games” — were costly and needlessly provocative to North Korea.
American officials said the vague language in the statement did not mean the United States had softened its denuclearization demand. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is to resume negotiations with the North Koreans next week on the details.
But there is no time frame for those negotiations. And if the North Koreans refused to offer concessions under the pressure of a looming summit meeting — one that Mr. Kim eagerly wanted — it is unclear why they would do so now, especially with Mr. Trump acknowledging that it will take a long time for North Korea to disarm.
The president has pivoted almost entirely from sticks to carrots on North Korea. Before his news conference, White House aides showed a short film, which Mr. Trump had commissioned and screened for Mr. Kim on an iPad during their meeting. With a thumping soundtrack and images of the two leaders as benevolent peacemakers, the video offered an inspirational view of a thriving North Korea, if only it would forsake its nuclear weapons.
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Source: The Trump-Kim Summit Was Unprecedented, but the Statement Was Vague