- President Donald Trump’s great achievement in diplomacy with North Korea went on full display on Sunday, when Pyongyang hosted a massive military parade with no nuclear missiles.
- A former Obama-administration official told Business Insider that President Barack Obama had warned Trump during the transition that war was coming if North Korea didn’t stop testing missiles.
- Trump hasn’t gotten North Korea to get rid of its nukes, but in presiding over a pause in North Korean missile testing, he’s scored a big win in North Korea diplomacy.
President Donald Trump’s great achievement in diplomacy with North Korea went on full display Sunday, when Pyongyang hosted a massive military parade with no nuclear missiles.
At no point did North Korea display any nuclear weapons or nuclear-related imagery, instead switching to slogans and parade floats focused on economic growth.
Trump, who maintains and publicizes warm relations with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, thanked Kim for leaving the nuclear missiles parked, calling the parade “a big and very positive statement from North Korea.”
Judged by his stated goal of getting North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons, Trump has failed outright.
But North Korea diplomacy can be about more than simply whether the country has nuclear weapons.
Trump multiple times has boasted of successful North Korean diplomacy even when it has yielded little more than the country’s leadership saying nice things about him and refraining from testing nuclear devices or missiles.
Still, those are marks of progress. Trump has also referred to a warning President Barack Obama gave him during the transition period after Trump’s electoral victory. “Before taking office people were assuming that we were going to War with North Korea,”Trump tweeted after meeting Kim in Singapore. “President Obama said that North Korea was our biggest and most dangerous problem. No longer – sleep well tonight!”
James Jeffrey, a US ambassador to Turkey under Obama and President George W. Bush, previously told Business Insider that Obama had warned Trump that North Korea’s missiles would soon demonstrate the capability of striking the US, at which point US alliances in Asia could die off.
Furthermore, the Pentagon in Obama’s days predicted that the tests North Korea would need to prove its missiles worked would bring about war with the US.
Obama essentially told Trump, according to Jeffrey, that “if North Korea continued their tests – and they need more tests to have a survivable weapon – that we would strike, probably a limited strike.”
Frank Aum, the Pentagon’s senior adviser for North Korea under Obama, confirmed to Business Insider that there was a “general understanding that a red line would be an atmospheric nuclear test over the ocean or an [intermediate-range ballistic missile] test that lands in the vicinity of Guam.”
So even though Trump has failed to even loosen a screw on a single North Korean nuclear weapon, he’s demonstrably sidelined the nuclear issue and presided over an unprecedented pause in missile testing.
Much of Trump’s foreign policy holds the general public, rather than arms-control experts, as the target audience. Trump hasn’t made North Korea’s nuclear weapons go away, but he has helped make the immediate danger they pose to the US take a hike for now.
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