by Martin Odoni

What a gift yesterday’s summit in Singapore was to the dictator of North Korea.

Listening to Donald Trump sympathisers worldwide, as they pile in to radio phone-ins to brown their noses in tribute to him, you would think he had personally arranged the Second Coming. The truth is, Trump did not achieve anything, while Kim Jong-Un got what he most desired, in exchange for doing nothing, and is thus laughing like crazy at his rival.

Strangely, Trump’s supporters seem to think he ‘got North Korea to the negotiating table’, and that that was an achievement in itself. In fact, it is quite the other way around. North Korean leaders have been asking for summits with US Presidents for decades, and previous US Presidents all refused such meetings without North Korea making concessions up front.

Occupy Democrats on Trump and his summit

Occupy Democrats are sharing this meme on social media, summing up what a loss the US summit with North Korea will ultimately prove.

Trump idiotically just agreed to this summit off the top of his head without imposing any conditions. The upshot of that is that Kim is now able to claim – without even having to lie – that he is the President who got the USA to the negotiating table. That diplomatic boon was a gift to Kim in itself.

But worse, what came out of the summit is a total victory for Kim – the metaphorical gift that has kept on giving – and a propaganda coup that has probably secured his position as absolute ruler of North Korea for another twenty years. He got everything, and gave up nothing.

Despite Trump’s characteristic boasting, the summit accomplished nothing for the USA. Trump extracted only vague, very familiar promises from Kim about ‘moving towards de-nuclearisation’. We have heard this from Pyongyang at least a dozen times before, just since the mid-1980s.

NK denuclearisation promises

There really is no good reason for the clamour of admiration for Donald Trump’s ‘diplomatic achievement’. He has gained nothing by it.

The reality is that, given the nature of the regime in Pyongyang, no ruler there will ever willingly give up his atomic weapons. Whoever the dictator is, he will know that if he surrenders nuclear arms, he will be dead within months. The regime there is one of the most brutal and repressive on Earth, and it rules, not through its power, but through fear of its power. No matter how much political power the dictator wields, he is still just a man, and can be assassinated as totally as any man-in-the-street. It is the threat, not of the man, but of the power he wields, that keeps him in place. So if he were to show that he is willing to give up nuclear weapons, his most powerful military resource, that would be a sign of weakness, while also potentially weakening the regime itself. He would have less power for those he rules to fear. So prominent figures near the top of his Government would probably respond by overthrowing him, before killing him – probably in a very bloodcurdling manner – to make sure he poses no threat to his successor.

In short, Kim Jong-Un cannot decommission his nuclear weapons; his own life depends on keeping them.

Meanwhile, Kim has extracted a promise from Trump to stop US military exercises off the coastline of the Korean peninsular. An end to that threatening practice is what the Pyongyang Government has been desperately seeking since Lyndon Johnson was American President. Now sure, there is nothing to guarantee that the USA will keep its side of the bargain either, but that is at least a firmly-defined promise, and it can be fairly measured whether the USA delivers on it. The Korean promise to ‘work together to move towards de-nuclearisation’ could mean anything upwards of “We’ll draw up a hypothetical plan for decommissioning that is obviously unworkable, and send it to you, and then when you reject it, we can say, ‘Well, at least we tried’.” That hollow, empty gesture would still count as fulfilling their side of the bargain, and would, absurdly, give North Korea the official moral high ground if the USA continues military manoeuvres off the Korean coast.

The South Korean Government in Seoul must be on the brink of a collective cardiac arrest, as they watch their most important backer giving their bitterest rival everything-for-nothing!

Worse, what does all of this say to Iran? The regime in Tehran followed the terms of its 2015 nuclear deal with the USA and its allies pretty much to the letter. But Trump simply cancelled the deal arbitrarily a month ago, for no apparent reason beyond wanting just to be different from his predecessor, Barack Obama. Now, the Iranians have sat, open-mouthed, as North Korea has received a major military concession in apparent exchange for shallow flattery of a narcissistic buffoon. The lesson the Iranians will doubtless take is that if they start saying nice things about Trump all the time, he will start giving them anything they want.

So Trump is cozying up to anti-democratic rulers like Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-Un, and repeatedly giving them something-for-nothing, while imposing trading tariffs on his country’s democratic allies.

This is not an era of triumph for Western diplomacy, it is an era of easy triumph for authoritarianism, and of alienation for democratic nations.

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