How the left and right report President Trump’s decision to meet with Kim Jong-un

President Donald Trump’s decision to accept North Korean Dictator Kim Jong-un’s invite for discussions on denuclearization has the media taking sides. Some say his strategy is already a success while others write that he has been suckered into a losing position by Kim. We look at the facts, what each side is reporting and then offer our analysis.

Just the Facts

In a surprise announcement at the White House Thursday evening, South Korea’s National Security Advisor told the world that President Trump had accepted a meeting with North Korean Dictator Kim Jong-un.

The main points of the South Korean statement were that:

  • Kim Jong-un told South Korea that he was “committed to denuclearization”
  • North Korea will “refrain from any further nuclear or missile tests”
  • Kim Jong-un “understands that the routine joint military exercises between the Republic of Korea and the United States must continue”
  • Kim Jong-un “expressed his eagerness to meet President Trump as soon as possible”
  • President Trump “appreciated the briefing and said he would meet Kim Jong-un by May to achieve permanent denuclearization”
  • South Korea, The United States and partners insist that “we not repeat the mistakes of the past”
  • The statement concluded saying that “pressure will continue until North Korea matches its words with concrete actions.”

Chung Eui-Yong thanked the president and his administration for the “maximum pressure policy” and “Trump’s leadership” that credited for North Korea’s sudden change of heart.

During a Friday White House Press Conference, a reporter asked White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders why the White House accepted the meeting “without any preconditions.” Sanders responded that there are indeed conditions that North Korea must meet if Kim Jong-un wants talks to take place.

“Let’s not forget that the North Koreans did promise something: They’ve promised to denuclearize, they’ve promised to stop nuclear and missile testing, and they’ve recognized that we’re going to continue in our military exercises,” Sanders said. “North Korea has made some promises. And, again, this meeting won’t take place without concrete actions that match the promises that have been made by North Korea.”

She clarified the statement to say that the White House would “have to see concrete and verifiable actions take place” before the meeting.

Other important facts:

  • If the meeting takes place it would be the first time a sitting president sat with a North Korean dictator
  • Finding an agreeable location to host the meeting may be difficult – Kim has never left North Korea making a neutral country unlikely and Trump is unlikely to travel to Pyongyang
  • North Korea has a history of making deals to reduce sanction or receive aid and then failing to deliver on their promises

How the Left reports the story

Politico – “Can Trump Handle Kim Jong Un?

If nothing else, Thursday’s dramatic announcement of the first-ever meeting between an American president and North Korea’s dictator has succeeded in changing the subject—from an alleged affair with a porn star to the serious business of dealing with the nuclear threat from the world’s most hostile regime in Pyongyang.

..

Trump as Grand Negotiator is a narrative the White House is sure to push for all it is worth. So it behooves observers to focus on the substance rather than getting lost in the atmospherics. And that means answering hard questions about the rationale for America’s military presence in South Korea and the necessity of U.S. military might in Asia as a counter to the growing political, military and economic power of China.

..

Because once Kim explains that his nuclear and missile programs are an understandable response to the U.S. deployment of conventional forces in and around Seoul, China’s posture is likely to change dramatically. Ditto for Russia. Beijing and Moscow would like nothing better than to see U.S. forces withdrawn from South Korea.

The Washington Post – “Kim Jong Un wants to be seen as Donald Trump’s equal. A meeting would do that

He wants to be treated as an equal by the global superpower, and a photo opportunity with the most powerful leader in the free world would go a long way to helping him achieve that.

..

“A meeting with the American president has for decades been considered the prize at the end of a successful denuclearization process, not an incentive to get the process started, and neither Kim’s father nor grandfather made it to that finish line,” he added. “So I have to grudgingly take my hat off to him because he’s played a very poor hand brilliantly to get there.”

..

“Kim Jong Un is a much harder nut to crack than Donald Trump, who’s much more transparent. So they’re probably going to have a much better idea of how to play him.”

National Review – “Three Out-of-the-Box Options on North Korea

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 One: Withdraw from South Korea. Nuclear weapons are the best way to deter foreign invasion, and Kim is unlikely to give them up. But denuclearizing North Korea would be an amazing accomplishment, stabilizing northeast Asia and solidifying the non-proliferation regime. However, to get something that big, the U.S. would need to give something big in return. Sanctions relief won’t cut it.
..
Two: Accept a nuclear North Korea. America’s position, under Trump and previous presidents, is that North Korea cannot have nuclear weapons. But it does. And seeing the historical success of nuclear deterrence , along with how the U.S. deposed non-nuclear regimes in Iraq and Libya , the North might never give them up.
..
Three: Live with the status quo. The North Korean situation is nerve-racking, but relatively stable. Both sides know a war would be costly, and neither wants to start one. The Kims have managed two successions and, while it’s hard to know what’s going on inside North Korea, it appears Kim Jong-un’s regime is in no danger of collapse. Sanctions have global support and keep North Korea under pressure.

Fox News – “North Korea: Trump-Kim meeting proves our president’s strategy worked”

President Trump’s upcoming meeting with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un – announced Thursday night to a shocked world – is a stunning vindication of the president’s strategy and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster’s artful behind-the-scenes acumen.

..

But at this point, it’s important for President Trump and his foreign policy and defense team to proceed with extreme caution. While they deserve credit for cracking the North Korean silence, the historical record suggests this could be a trap, if not an intentional distraction.

..

But a decision to meet, even a North Korean promise to denuclearize, is not an agreement, implementation, verification or a factually denuclearized Peninsula. And the odds of success remain long.

..

On the plus side, President Trump not only triggered this opening, but persuaded China to make sanctions real, which occasions a nod to both the president and China.

On the minus side, the record suggests profound skepticism is warranted about North Korea’s intentions.

Main Street analysis of the coverage – What we think (take it for what it’s worth)

Politico’s opening with unconfirmed allegations of an affair with porn star Stormy Daniels is unnecessary to the story and would have been removed by any competent news editor. If the article was about the media’s pivot away from the meeting, the lede would have fit that headline. It is representative of the left-leaning website’s ideological bent and anti-Trump attitude.

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The premise of the article is that Kim Jong-un rightfully sought nuclear weapons because the United States has troops in the demilitarized zone (DMZ). The U.S. presence was set up as a condition of the Korean War Armistice. Politico’s basis is flawed at best and fits a globalist, Russian, Chinese agenda at its worst. There is no U.S. agenda to take over North Korea – that country has nothing of value and a land war with the hermit kingdom would incur costs that Americans would not tolerate unless Kim Jong-un attacked the U.S. or one of its allies. Those troops are there to deter North Korea from attempting to take over South Korea, a bustling economy, in a process that Kim has repeatedly called “reunification.” Without the U.S. presence, Kim would already have tried to reunify the Korean peninsula by force. A move that Russia and China would support but for the American defense forces in the DMZ.

Will North Korea, China and Russia push for the removal of U.S. troops? Sure, but there is little chance of that happening unless North Korea dismantles its nuclear program, ballistic missile program and a large portion of its land and air forces. Those forces represent a proxy military for Russia and China who would never allow their removal. Trump is likely to keep negotiations focused on North Korea denuclearizing and in return, the allies will lift sanctions and perhaps offer financial and/or food/fuel aid.

The Washington Post article is correct – North Korea’s dictators have always wanted a direct meeting with a U.S. president to give them credibility on the world stage. Where they missed the mark is that this meeting would deliver that – it won’t. Despite the charm offensive at the 2018 Winter Olympics, the world knows what Kim Jong-un is: a murderous dictator, a dishonest negotiator, and the inhumane leader of his impoverished country. This meeting will not change any of that. First, he will have to prove to the Trump administration that North Korea has taken verifiable steps to denuclearize before the meeting happens. Second, he will have to commit to international inspectors having full access to all nuclear facilities without notice – something Kim is unlikely to accept and that will likely kill negotiations. Kim may be seeking a deal similar to the failing Iran nuclear agreement, but Trump isn’t likely to make the same mistake the previous administration did.

The Post is a left-leaning newspaper and the quote “I have to grudgingly take my hat off to [Kim Jong-un] because he’s played a very poor hand brilliantly to get there,” creates the appearance that the president has been played by the North Korea dictator. The selection of quotes to support the premise are a clear indication of bias:

“Kim Jong Un is a much harder nut to crack than Donald Trump, who’s much more transparent. So they’re probably going to have a much better idea of how to play him.”

The author’s “analysis” is from a singular perspective without considering another view. It is more a single-sided editorial than an honest look at the meeting’s implications.

The National Review piece represents largely globalist views. The three ideas presented represent America taking a weak position in the negotiations. The first idea, withdrawing all U.S. troops from South Korea in exchange for denuclearization is eerily similar to Politico’s positon. The measured lifting of sanctions should be the only carrot offered to North Korea in exchange for it dismantling its nuclear program and assets. The second option of accepting a nuclear North Korea is equally awful. North Korea is a proxy/puppet state for China and Russia and allowing a murderous dictator to possess these weapons would also encourage other dangerous states such as Iran to build a nuclear arsenal. The third option is, as they stated, is the status quo. That would naturally occur if the talks never happen or break down during negotiations. It’s not really an option as much as an after-effect should North Korea not come to the table with honest intentions. National Review is a right-leaning site that is heavily anti-Trump. But, although their “weak America” foreign policy stance is evident, the anti-Trump bias is not present in this story.

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 The Fox News story gets it right but the headline represents the site’s rightward bias. “Trump-Kim meeting proves our president’s strategy worked” the headline reads – somewhat overhyping what appears to be a foreign policy success. Trump’s strategy worked from the perspective that the U.S. didn’t have to make concessions in order to bring Kim to the table, but denuclearization, Trump’s self-stated goal, has not occurred and is not likely to from this meeting. The actual article does put forward skepticism that the announcement of a possible meeting will lead to success, but the headline made it appear that Trump had already reached the finish line. It is important to note that many on Twitter and Facebook read the headlines and share articles without actually reading them so a slightly biased headline, even if refuted in the story, can effectively slant perspective on an issue.

Lastly, it’s important to look at a critical comment in the South Korean statement. The allies not wanting to “repeat the mistakes of the past” is likely a reference to former administrations giving concessions to North Korea ahead of meetings and ending up with little more than empty promises after talks happen. It could also be a reference to the failed Iran nuclear deal. National security experts believe that Iran and North Korea are working together on missile and nuclear weapons technologies. Creating a deal similar to the Iran compromise would have the U.S. repeat the sins of previous administrations.

“If we look at the history of these negotiations that have taken place under prior administrations, they have often led to the relinquishing of pressure,” a Trump administration official said Thursday. “They’ve often led to concessions being made to North Korea in return for talks. President Trump has been very clear from the beginning that he is not prepared to reward North Korea in exchange for talks.”

We will have to wait to see if North Korea performs concrete and verifiable steps towards permanent denuclearization or if this is Kim’s play to buy himself some time by getting sanctions relief while promising something he never intends to complete – dismantling his nuclear program.

To get to the truth, the distillation of facts from the fluffy, ideological bent is important. That’s why MSE presents the facts first, then the media’s perspectives. If you see things differently, that’s what the comment section is for – let us have it.

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About Ed Craig

Ed Craig is an independent political commentator. With no allegiance to any party, he analyzes what's going in D.C. and points out what matters. His opinions are his own and not necessarily shared by The Main Steet Examiner, its staff or officers.
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