The departure of President TrumpDonald TrumpFormer Sen. Heller to run for Nevada governor Overnight Defense & National Security — Milley becomes lightning rod Joint Chiefs Chairman Milley becomes lightning rod on right MORE from Vietnam without an agreement with Kim Jong Un was his Reykjavik moment. It was time to walk away with no deal instead of a terrible deal. This marks a diversion from every other administration that caved to North Korea when faced with these difficult moments. It is interesting to look back over the days leading up to this summit at the comments from people responsible for decades of failed diplomacy with North Korea. These are the last people who should be giving President Trump advice, but they offer it publicly and constantly.
Samantha Vinograd, senior adviser to the national security adviser under President Obama and an analyst for CNN, offered guidance to President Trump as he prepared for his second summit with Kim Jong Un. Vinograd, who had helped President Obama implement his disastrous foreign policy strategy, was hardly the only one casting doubt on the prospects in Hanoi. It is safe to say that unsolicited advice from people who failed is not worth the time it takes to listen. Another failed “expert” is Victor Cha, director of Asian affairs for the National Security Council under President Bush, who had warned that President Trump might accept a bad deal just to secure a foreign policy victory. “The timing, given what is happening domestically, makes him a lot more vulnerable,” he told the media before the summit.
“Funny to watch people who have failed for years, they got nothing, telling me how to negotiate with North Korea,” President Trump had tweeted out in response to the rash of unsolicited advice. “But thanks anyway!” He wisely ignored these naysayers because he has already proven that he knows better and has more effective advisers than these failed former government officials. President Trump did exactly what he said he would do. If North Korea was not willing to engage and enter into a verifiable agreement, the United States would walk away from the table.
His message shows that President Trump has made more progress on North Korea than any president in history. His decision to walk away is a break from the failed policies of his predecessors. While maintaining harsh sanctions and making clear that he remains willing to unleash the full power of our military if Kim Jong Un makes any aggressive moves, President Trump has also held our the prospect of normalizing relations with North Korea if the rogue regime is willing to verifiably denuclearize and act like a much more responsible member of the world community.
Yet, progress has still been made. Since the first summit in Singapore, North Korea has halted its missile testing, destroyed parts of its nuclear production plants, released three American hostages, and sent back the remains of fallen American soldiers. The United States, meanwhile, has made only temporary and reversible concessions, such as postponing military exercises with South Korea. That is a sharp rebuke of the past strategy our country has applied toward North Korea for decades, which basically amounted to giving the regime billions of dollars worth of aid in exchange for empty promises that were ignored as soon as the aid was delivered. A lack of accountability and any demand of a fair return on our investments is the lingering factual record of every prior administration.
While renewed conflict never broke out, nuclear weapons development soared in North Korea and it became more aggressive, due to the feckless nature of this “appeasement” foreign policy. In 1994, President Clinton reached an agreement with North Korea that provided $4 billion in aid in return for the regime gradually dismantling its nuclear program. The aid poured in, but North Korea only accelerated its development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. The agreement had lacked any verification process, and despite intelligence at the time indicating that North Korea was not complying, the drastic amount of money was provided anyway.
In 2007, President Bush signed a new agreement that gave $400 million worth of aid to North Korea in exchange for shuttering its main nuclear reactor. Once again, the United States honored its promise, while North Korea ignored it. President Obama did little more than talk, offering vague pronouncements that North Korea would face “consequences” for its dangerous actions. While President Obama did impose fresh sanctions in response to nuclear weapons tests, he failed to secure any concessions from North Korea. There were provocations and bellicose behavior from North Korea on a regular basis, while nuclear weapons tests continued.
President Trump has already made more progress with North Korea in the past year than his predecessors managed over the course of more than two decades, He demonstrated that he will not cave and accept a bad deal as his predecessors did. There have been no new nuclear weapons tests or provocative ballistic missile launches. The last people President Trump needs advice from are the ones who created the diplomatic mess he is now cleaning up. This abrupt reset of negotiations with North Korea will get its attention and, I forecast, will eventually result in a verifiable agreement to see the elimination of nuclear weapons from North Korea.
Tony Shaffer is a retired senior intelligence operations officer who served with the United States Army and acting president of the London Center for Policy Research. He is an adviser to the 2020 campaign of Donald Trump.