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Trump’s North Korean Appeasement

In the 15 months since US President Donald Trump held his first summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, there has been no progress toward denuclearization. But while both leaders have managed to extract benefits from the impasse thus far, it is Kim who stands to gain the most in the months ahead.

DENVER – Having met with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un three times – all to great fanfare – US President Donald Trump may still believe that denuclearization is underway in the Hermit Kingdom. If so, he is the probably the only one who does, given North Korea’s frequent missile tests and upgrades to its weapons.

It is anyone’s guess what the Trump administration’s North Korea policy will look like in a year, but for now, both sides seem to have what they want. Trump has wrangled a loose stalemate that could hold through the November 2020 US presidential election, and Kim has secured a suspension of US-South Korean military exercises, in exchange for freezing his nuclear tests.

The summits with Kim never should have led to the current “freeze for freeze” arrangement, which weakens the US-South Korea alliance. Yet when first meeting Kim in Singapore in June 2018, Trump decided simply to follow his instincts. He has been taking US policy on North Korea in the wrong direction ever since.

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