Trump Was Outfoxed in Singapore

The United States made important concessions to North Korea, and got nothing tangible.

Comments: 319

  1. Trump got what he wanted...a photo op. Its all about perception. When he trashed the G-7 meeting enroute to the Korea summit that was also about a photo op. His anger at Prime Minister Trudeau was because the Prime Minister was going off script ---Trump's script. I suspect Trump gave Trudeau some sort of assurance that the tariffs would all work out (eventually) in Canada's favor. Meanwhile he would show both the world and the Trump supporters that he was doing what he said at the outset....overturn the apple cart. Tilting toward Russia while abandoning Canada, Mexico and Europe are all signs of Trump's leadership into a new world. Ugh!

  2. Trump demands obeisance from everyone and becomes irritated when he does not get that. Trudeau has stood up to the bully.

  3. Trump is markedlly increasing the trade hit in Canada I hear this a.m. Thanks for nothing Americans.

  4. I hold a different view simply because Kim can't afford fool Trump, say, for the next 3 years. Trump can't wait until the last moment of this presidency to assure his diplomatic victory, and precisely because he has "bigger nuke" and have very limited human reasoning power, North Korea will either get nothing in return or face "fire and fiery" by Trump.

  5. The problem is that China is a North Korea ally, and South Korea is our ally, and we need both countries (China and South Korea) strategically and economically, whereas both strongly disagree with the idea that the US would bomb North Korea (too much is at stake for them). Kim knows this of course. So he knows that any US president has his hands tied. The only way to obtain something from him is to negotiate a REAL deal, rather than the usual vague promises, as has been done once again today. As to Trump's "diplomatic victory": look at how his base believes no matter what that he tweets, and you realize that to be re-elected, it isn't important for him at all to actually achieve something, apart from creating a positive narrative about his presidency and a negative one about Democrats through daily tweets.

  6. I think Kim / DPRK have already gained what they were seeking ... Trump has signaled a more relaxed regime for sanctions (giving cover to China or other nations to trade) and given Kim a major boost with the cancellation of military exercises (even adopting the name 'war games' and deriding these exercises as provocative). All of this in exchange for 'reaffirming' positions already stated by the DPRK in the past. Trump has what he wants, an ambiguous future that he can fill with boastful claims of his actions and blame others if it fails.

  7. But Kim has already received a HUGE boost by simply being allowed to appear in the same photo as the POTUS.

  8. Mr. Kristof, your sober analysis of the Trump/Kim meeting, while earnest and well meaning, completely misses the point. The meeting was a triumph for Donald Trump. It was a triumph because he can show his base a photo of him solemnly shaking hands with the leader of North Korea, something no other president has done. The facts of the meeting - the concrete results - they don't matter in the slightest to Trump's base. As for the world being safer today, that is a dangerous misreading of the summit. Trump is no more or less likely to order a strike on North Korea than he was last week. If we know one thing about Donald Trump, it's that, moment to moment, his actions are calculated solely on what might make him look good, or enrich him. His word is, and this cannot be stressed enough, completely worthless. I understand that the media is duty bound to report and comment on what he says because he is president of the United States, but his words are meaningless. It's not only that he lies continuously, it's that he is ruled by his whims and those whims are prone to change at any time. I'm saying that Trump's photo op with Kim was a ratings smash, and that is the only thing Trump wanted from it. Did he get played on a substantive level? To Trump and his base that is as irrelevant as the weather on Mars. Everyone is talking about him. That's all that matters.

  9. You are absolutely right. But it was much more than just the photo op Trump wanted to get from it. He will milk the now starting negotiations to no end. Whenever some new revelations with regard to the Mueller investigation or other "stormy" details are about to break expect tweet after tweet on some bigly breakthroughs and successes in the negotiations with North Korea. Might not be enough for the Nobel Peace Prize but should help his enablers through the midterm elections.

  10. If so, I'd like him to do it again with Iran. He can grin all he likes if we can get things fixed, even if he broke them. Just get it fixed.

  11. This sums it up perfectly.

  12. Sadly, I fear you are correct. I think it was inevitable, even predictable. Trump was too eager for a deal, and too ignorant of the details, and dismissive of nuance, to know what he was giving away. Any fool would appreciate that it's a long way from a general statement of intention (denuclearization, whatever that means!) to cold, hard fact. Insofar as there was no declaration by North Korea of a willingness to destroy its ICBM's or hold texting of long range missiles, this hasn't made the USA or its allies one wit safer. This can only be called "Slouching toward Peace". Most inauspicious!

  13. More like rushing to nuclear war....

  14. I am a part if the large, and growing, retired military opposition to this president. Bi-lateral exercises with host country forces are essential to any hope of success in the event of an actual fight. Interoperability at full speed is critical and can only be achieved through practice. As soon as we cease exercises, we put our forces at risk. Regretfully, we have opted to surrender in advance. Our grand achievement is a photo op with a ruthless authoritarian dictator who has a brilliant record of starving and torturing his own his nukes are intact and unthreatened. In the meantime, we are simutaneously walking away from our allies. These are the actions of a U.S.A. that I neither recognize nor respect.

  15. It doesn't take long to figure out Trump is a bully and a lightweight. His election was part of the cumulative frustration of many upset with the loss of living wage jobs and out of control immigration. Many voters understand personal self interest more readily than the overall public interest.

  16. I sincerely hope that you use your position, hard earned as it is, as someone retired from the military to clearly voice your opinion on what this person is doing to our country. You have stated it well. I may be wrong, but it sure seems that a lot of people in, or retired from, the military are willing to follow this guy without question.

  17. Thank you for your service and genuine patriotism.

  18. No kidding. He gave Kim everything he wanted, and got literally nothing in return. The text of the statement of intent is no different than what was negotiated several weeks ago by South Korea. However, Kim stood next to the American (illegitimate) president with North Korean flags places as equals to US flags. trump declared he would do everything Kim commanded without asking South Korea first, he excluded Japan from the talks, and thereby made a fool of himself and a victor of Kim. Disgusting. And more disgusting how so many alleged journalists are fawning over this do g and pony show

  19. It depends upon what one thinks that the president wanted. If one consults his campaign platform, this president wants to disengage from areas that don't involve the vital security of this country. The Korean invasion happened because Secretary of State Dean Acheson publicly omitted the Korean Peninsula as a vital concern of the United States. Truman changed the country's mind for it after the invasion, and it is possible that this president agrees with Acheson's original estimate. This president may also believe that the best way to render North Korea's threat nugatory is to leave the area, letting the two Korean states to figure things out between them.

  20. Hi John, Thank-you for your comment. I, too, was jolted by the alternating backdrop of American and North Korean flags, and the lack of South Korean and Japanese participation. How the mighty America has fallen. And we are only in this a year and a half... I shudder to think how low we can go.

  21. oh2253 - Do you mean prior to complete denuclearization? That is a long time off, if ever. And I don't see how that could work peacefully even then. Since South Korea has no nuclear capabilities, leaving the area and letting the two states figure it out would certainly not be nugatory for South Korea, and it would be unconscionable for the United States. The South has everything the North wants. What would prevent Kim from just taking it? We can't live in the past; we can't turn back time. We have to deal with things as they are, and just packing up and going home would be the death of South Korea - and to my mind, the death of all America stands for.

  22. Actually, much as I despise Trump, I find the arguments posited by Mr Kristof to be shallow and quite frankly, informed more by his contempt of Trump than his knowledge of what actually transpired. The reality of this situation is that Trump has tried something different with N Korea. He has done so for a number of reasons, not least of which is to make himself look presidential in the face of Mr Mueller's looming reports. But he has also noted accurately that the past approaches with North Korea have not worked. None of them. More to the point, Trump has stated that his "concessions" are contingent on North Korea actually doing what Trump says they will do. If North Korea doesn't do what Trump says they will do, does Mr Kristof seriously think Trump will not immediately resume military exercises, double the sanctions and threaten fire and fury? Of course he will. The reality is that Trump is trying a new approach. Ironically, so did President Obama try a new approach with Iran. Neither approach was consistent with the years of failed negotiating tactics that preceded it. Both were castigated for their efforts. But both recognized Einstein's theory of insanity; eg, doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Let's hope that Trump and Kim Jong-un both want to make this work, even if their motivations are personal and not historic. If they don't, its easy enough to revisit the old plan which wasn't working anyway.

  23. Bravo, TDurk! Your analysis is spot on, and yes, the Times won't acknowledge it. Thank you!

  24. The cessation of joint military exercises wasn't a major concession at all. Trump could change his mind if NK disappoints us and restart military exercises in a matter of days.

  25. We can try to revisit but we won't ave allies who trust us but we will have China exploiting our trade of a photo op and some flattery for major concession. By the time it becomes clear that Kim is not really cooperating, China will have reduced or eliminated its sanctions and strengthened its position in the Pacific rim area. Time's arrow goes in one direction

  26. President Obama, after years of painstaking top-secret diplomacy and the approval of all of the global superpowers - ally and adversary alike - managed to secure a deal with Iran in which Iran cancelled its nuclear programme, reduced its centrifuges, and acquiesced to intrusive international inspections of its nuclear facilities to ensure compliance - which it then duly followed to the letter. Having scrapped that on a whim, President Trump did zero revision like the C- student that he is, and in a forty-eight hour impulsive chat with a homicidal dictator, managed to secure the same un-guaranteed, un-substantiated promise North Korea has been making for decades in exchange for the US immediately ceasing important military exercises and agreeing to reduce its influence in East Asia. But you know, he's The Dealmaker.

  27. Trump traded the stability and strength of our defense system in the Pacific region, betrayed our allies and put them in the position of having to wonder if the United Stes is a reliable ally and a useful counterweight to China's growing economic and military power. But hey! He got a great photo op or two and lots of flattery from a butcher with impeccable credentials as a human rights violator. Sounds like a fair trade to me.

  28. The deal maker who was bankrupt several times which made his become a TV reality star who was even fired from that! TERRIFIED of this man who likes dictators and is systematically eroding civil rights, voting rights, taking over the judicial system and alienating our allies. PLEASE VOTE and PLEASE REGISTER SO YOU CAN. If we still have free elections by NOVEMBER maybe we can save our country.

  29. Iran didn't cancel its nuclear programme, it merely put it on pause while it used the billions in cash Obama ponied up and the boost its economy received to continue its conquest of the Middle East. Obama did Iran a huge favor. What was the quo for his quid?

  30. Many on the left are being tinted by their blind disdain for Trump. The military war games stimulating an invasion of the North were a huge provocation. The North has already suspended its nuclear and ballistic missile test, a big concession.

  31. 1. The provocation was precisely designed, by the US , in order to deter North Korea and to prevent it from attacking the South. It has worked for decades already. And of course the North didn't like that, as they've always wanted to invade and annexe the US. So there's nothing new here, we ARE at war with North Korea, and that includes what Trump now prefers to call "war games". In other words: these aren't games, there are lives at stake, lives of our allies, and that we swore to protect, remember? 2. The North suspended its nuclear testing ... AFTER having acquired what it has been doing that testing for under Trump's watch, namely nuclear weapons. In other words: they've suspended it now that they've reached their goal. NOT because of one or the other Trump decision. So no, you cannot just dismiss the fact that Trump didn't accomplish anything here, concretely, by referring to "blind disdain for Trump". You have to come up with arguments that prove that he DID accomplish something good for the US and its allies. And if you can't - as is apparently the case, at least when it comes to your comment here? - you're merely telling us that you're tired of hearing that your guy cannot win over the hearts of the majority of the American people and would like us to believe what you believe in. I can understand that, but that's no way to objectively evaluate what a president is doing ... no?

  32. Liberals are much more realistic about Trump. NK did not suspend any tests. Nothing about that in the “agreement”.

  33. Suspending nuclear tests BEFORE achieving the desired results would indeed have been an important concession! Suspending AFTERWARD is hardly a concession--it is merely a pause.

  34. The US is the big brother nation and could literally beat all the little brother nations of the world to a pulp at a moment's notice. Given this reality, it is almost impossible for any US concession to make a real difference in its absolute dominance of a globalized lethal force. Mr. Kim can tell his people anything he wants, and in many ways, it doesn't matter, and it won't shift the North's position on the world stage. The biggest change here is the total abandonment by the US of its commitment to use its power to promote human rights equally with power and trade matters. Basically, one bad man met another bad man, and they got along.....can't be good.

  35. It's a sad day when Americans cite their military capacity for total world destruction as the sole reason for America's continued dominance, while simultaneously alienating its traditional allies. The last war where the US moved mostly unilaterally was Vietnam, and I don't recall that going so well.

  36. Well yes, we could beat anybody to a pulp. With N Korea there is a serious chance they could get off a weapon before ending up as pulp and the consequences if that happened would not be insubstantial, not just one punch that the little guy landed before going down. I'm not so concerned about our concessions, but about what we GET in return for any concession and so far it looks like we got a joint statement.

  37. On the nuclear era, there are no big brothers.

  38. I REALLY don't want to fail to credit Trump for a real accomplishment just because I hate him. That would be a sign that I suffer from the Trump strain of Obamaphobia. But I don't think that is the reason that I agree with Kristof here. What has happened just now is that Trump has made two major concessions to the North Koreans: meeting with Kim without preconceptions on their part (something they have been wanting for years), and agreeing in theory to stopping the joint military exercises. I think these are not bad things to do, but in this context they are clearly done in response to one and only one thing: the North Koreans' brandishing of their newly developed ICBMs that are capable of delivering a nuke to the US mainland. Kim can and undoubtedly will claim that this threat led the US to make concessions. We will see if Kim is smart enough to praise Trump rather than lord it over him. Had Obama granted Kim a meeting or cancelled the war games, conservatives would have been apoplectic. We will see if the true hard liners react to Trump's approach in the same way. I suspect Pompeo is running the real show, with a long term goal of touting progress toward reducing the NK threat as a way of keeping the Republicans in power through 2024. I am sure he is planning to run for President then, (if not sooner!) So, "We'll see what happens." God, now I am starting to SOUND like him!

  39. Well,I'd take Pompeo over Drump any day.

  40. No Pompeo sis not running the show. You leave sanctions in place and work with you allies to crush the regime. Eventually China gets tired of bailing NK out. But we are to busy insulting and belittling our allies. We got to be great by creating the greatest alliances in the history of the world. trump is taking pleasure to ruin that.

  41. I can't stand the Donald, but I believe the NYT would be talking about this weekend in glowing terms if this was Obama

  42. Outfoxed? Was he. The guy is totally self-serving, this gets him world press coverage and feeds his obsession with instant gratification - consequences, what that? As well getting up close and personal with a brutal dictator, the only type of person he expresses unlimited admiration for even suggesting some of their brutality would be good for Americans. Even so, the optics could not be worse for the long held vision of America and could not be better for Kim Jong-un. A brutal dictator from a long line of brutal dictators – starving millions of people to death, torture, imprisonment and murder of generations of families – given an international platform, treated with respect and deference, even benevolence, by the so called leader of free-world. And this only two days after the 45th has disrespected, attacked and insulted long standing US allies. Trump even left the G7 meeting early preferring a few days to rest up for his meeting with dear dictator Kim instead of aligning with leaders of the world's democracies. btw: who chose the dates - Kim? Is this Trumps' quasi Chamberlain moment? The Republicans are on board, it serves them too, and too many people love an autocrat as long as they are promised a job, a car and some pin money. History is replete with adoring crowds swearing fealty to strongmen – until...

  43. The same people questioned Reagan as well, called him crazy too. When you only see one vision, everything else looks wrong.

  44. Yes, déjà vu I can tell you too, I lived in Europe in the 30s...

  45. Trump values the spotlight way above national interests. Kim gave it to him gladly.

  46. I’ve never been a flag-waver. My dad was a Republican and we didn’t see eye-to-eye on politics or patriotism. But Dad was also a Korean War veteran—sent to the peninsula as a skinny 17-year-old. The sight of Trump the Draft-Dodger shaking hands with a murderous dictator, against a bank of flags in which North Korea’s was displayed on equal footing with ours, made my blood boil. Dad and I also disagreed on when to go to war vs. working for peace. I favor the latter and still do. But like Mr. Kristoff, I’m not prepared to give Trump credit for de-escalating hostilities he ramped up himself. His behavior toward our allies has been appalling: Calling off military preparedness exercises without even notifying South Korea and Japan? And his record for not following up on grandiose promises (infrastructure plans? better, cheaper healthcare? action on opioids?) makes me pessimistic about the future of the North Korea peace process. After all, Trump already got what he went for: a photo op, headlines with words like “historic” in them, and ideas for new beachfront resorts. No doubt he's already on to his next plan for self-aggrandizement and -enrichment.

  47. I'm disappointed. Trump should have gone for a Trump Tower in Pyongyang with a McDonald in return for an NBA franchise in NK couched by Dennis Rodman. That would have been real progress.

  48. He probably signed a deal for a Trump Hotel in North Korea while he was at it!

  49. Speaking of doing well, how about Jared and Ivanka this past year and a half? The old man becomes President and gives them the keys to the castle and then they make out like bandits. #maga...forjaredandivanka

  50. On that usual scale I heard this meeting was given a 3 1/2. Of course he was outfoxed. He went off to this meeting totally unprepared. He had a one on one instead of taking Bolton and/or Pompeo which would have been the intelligent thing to do.....but no he thought he could wing it. He thinks he's a great deal maker. If that is so than why did he go bankrupt 6 times. Now he's bragging about a good relationship with KJ, another dictator after antagonizing our allies. Just what did he accomplish of any substance.

  51. As the saying goes...Failure to prepare is preparation to fail.

  52. Not only did he go into the meeting unprepared; he went in boasting about being unprepared. And his apologists and cult members cheer.

  53. You allege he went bankrupt because he's not a deal maker. I do not agree. I believe he is a very smart deal maker when it's about his own money (and devil take everyone else as many unpaid creditors from his past will tell you), but the problem is this doesn't carry over to negotiations between nations. If he makes a bad deal for this country we cannot simply walk away and declare bankruptcy.

  54. Looks like just another worthless piece of paper, backed by vague claims. We will have a better picture of this transaction if we observe things in S. Korea in the next few months. If they go into turmoil and their economy suddenly crashes, (or magically ramps up) we will have something to ponder. If Russia or China extends more credit to the North, or start shipping in ‘consultants’ there’s another marker. Other than that, just a piece of paper. A Mission Accomplished moment.

  55. Sadly, the US gave North Korea what it wanted, ending the war games, for that worthless piece of paper-- and screwed South Korea and possibly Japan by doing so. Once again, being a friend of DJT is a dangerous position.

  56. The conclusion of this 18-month reality show is a laughter-inducing joke. The North Koreans (and the Chinese hiding in the shadows) played Trump like a fish. First they got his attention by threatening the US with missiles, allowing Trump to tweet insults and strut about the stage as he played the strongman. The object all along was to get Trump to acknowledge the legitimacy of Kim's regime, and push the US further out of China's expanding sphere of influence. Now Kim will get an economic infusion to calm his restive people, and South Korea gets new revenue from investing in the North. Trump gets to be the center of the world's attention, which is what he really wanted, and the chance to rev up his base for the mid-terms and 2020. The real reality of the decline in US influence and power doesn't matter to Trump. It's all about today's ratings. On with the show!

  57. At least Obama didn't legitimize North Korea. Unlike Trump.

  58. Mr. Kim has shown himself to be a crafty and strategic leader, despite being a cruel dictator. What we've seen over the past several months, with his trips to China, meetings with his South Korean counterpart, and now the leader of the most powerful nation in the world is that he is not the crazy, maniacal leader the West feared he was. I am sure he never had any intention of launching a nuclear strike on the US or Japan, because he knows it would lead to his swift demise. Protecting his family's dynasty is his number one mission. No, his entire purpose in developing his nuclear power was to achieve this moment in time, when he is accepted as a leader on the world stage. Several pundits are suggesting that if nothing else this summit has eased nuclear worries. I don't think so. Those worries were self fabricated by the West through Kim's careful strategy. Instead what we have done is give up moral leadership by welcoming a murderer of his own people (and family), and reduce our security by stopping military exercises - which will please N. Korea, China and Russia immensely.

  59. Being cruel in no way precludes being crafty and strategic. Why would it?

  60. How soon will the Trump tower and Ivanka's fashion house show up. When will Kim start doing business with the grifters in the white house

  61. His ultimate strategy is reunification of the peninsula, under his dictatorial control. Kim made a giant leap in that direction, and Trump enabled it just as surely as Chamberlain enabled Hitler's seizure of Czechoslavakia in 1938.

  62. Mr. Kristof, I admire your consistent humanist calls to prevent armed conflict, which is why I don't understand this pessimism, it's bewildering. Usually you and your colleagues criticize Trump for being arrogant and insensitive on the world stage. Now here he is somewhat miraculously trying to understand the world from the point of view of the man who's supposed to be his most bitter adversary, calling our military exercises provocative, which indeed they are from the North Korean perspective. And you're worried he's giving in too much, not being arrogant enough, not risking nuclear conflict to get more concessions? As you state, he has "embraced the longstanding Democratic position — that we should engage North Korea, even if the result isn’t immediate disarmament." But because it's Trump, suddenly you have a problem with that. Yes, of course, we can't yet be sure that they will follow through on their promises to destroy their nuclear program. But we can also renege on our promise to stop war games, so we haven't conceded anything, actually. Perhaps Kim used his weapons to cow us into negotiating, but at the end of the day it still shows that his real desire is in fact to negotiate, not to be a nuclear-armed pariah. And this was just one meeting; it went about as well as it could go. I don't understand how you can say "it’s still bewildering how much Trump gave and how little he got." Perhaps your obvious malice towards the President is coloring your perspective.

  63. I believe the point is that this was all a show so Trump could defuse a situation he created while pleasing his base who will see him as a peace maker. Returning to the status quo that existed before Trump took office is not progress. Being serious about these negotiations and doing some homework probably would've resulted in something more substantial than the show we got.

  64. Trump is the new Neville Chamberlain and the only omission in his muddled press conference was his not saying, "I believe it is peace for our time." Trump folded like a cheap suit. He sold out our military, our allies, and he's decimated America's reputation and standing in the world by sucking up to a brutal dictator. What a disgrace.

  65. This might all be much more palatable if Trump didn't stomp all over our allies within the last few days. That's what makes this so backwards. Kim had no intention of using a nuclear weapon. I was never worried that KJU was the loose cannon in this equation. Yes, this is great, we won't nuke each other tomorrow. But Trump really didn't gain much. The Iran Deal was a real plan, not empty platitudes, and yet that was tossed out the window. This is all about Trump, he does not care about anything else. He is already planning on building a Trump hotel in N Korea, no doubt.

  66. Has Mr. Trump sold the farm for some magic beans? Trump believes that there is a sucker born every minute; but it looks like he has been conned by Mr. Kim. Wow! Now that is turn-around. The con-man gets conned. History will be the judge of the success of this latest grand adventure. My sense is that little will come of it. Mr. Kim will continue to rule NK with his iron fist and Mr. Trump will continue to try to obstruct justice as it relates to the Russian collusion inquiry. The news cycle will circle back to the Special Prosecutor and to the trade war which will impact the people of the US far more than Mr. Kim will ever hope to do. Today has been a good-ish day for Mr. Trump but now he has to retreat to Washington and get back to reality life.

  67. China will see the US concession to stop further military exercises as a sign that it can ease sanctions on North Korea. Other countries will follow suit. Kim is achieving everything he wants and the US gets nothing in return. In the end North Korea will remain a repressive regime with nuclear weapons and money.

  68. Certainly any country looking for an excuse to ease sanctions on North Korea has been given one by Trump's assertions that Kim is an honorable man with good intentions and that Kim is dedicated to denuclearization. China and Russia will take Trump's word for all that and declare that maximum pressure is no longer necessary or productive. But Trump and his followers keep telling us that sanctions haven't been removed, as if somehow Trump is the one who decides what NK's top two trading partners, China and Russia, do in the future.

  69. China will also deem the United States and therefore continue to build military bases on the disputed China Sea atolls and islands.

  70. With a regime like North Korea’s you have to start somewhere and I agree that leading with the human rights violations might not be the best tact to achieve the goal of denuclearization. That said Trump, with all his usual egotistical showmanship, immediately and without hesitation crossed the line of cautious optimism and threw all his cards on the table with effusive Trumpian rhetoric. Reagan said “trust but verify” with much weight placed on the word “verify.” Trump forgot the other half of that statement and gushed repeatedly and will likely continue to applaud his own achievements in Singapore. But let’s go back to the human rights issue because we cannot forget that people are suffering under this regime. What we saw yesterday was the reality show version of events. And sadly that’s the world we live in. There will be a time when the horrors and atrocities will be photographed and further documented, and the world will collectively drop their jaws, and social media will explode with some new hashtag or slogan. Unfortunately if it’s not on the screen we don’t believe it or prioritize it. Let us pray that Trump addresses the human rights issue head on and does not marginalize the importance of this issue. Given Trump’s statements today however, I am greatly concerned that we will see plans for a Trump Beach resort in North Korea before we see a condemnation of the abuses and subsequent release of North Korea’s prison camp detainees.

  71. Who on earth would go to a resort in North Korea?? He is insane.

  72. Agreed. I liken his comments about it being "rough everywhere" to the false equivalency he made when he said, "...many sides, many sides," in his remarks about the violence in Charlottesville.

  73. Kim gained exactly what he wanted for now. But we would be wise to hold off on our condemnations because of what his grandfather and father and he did--esp Jong un--in his first 4 years or so. He copied this family and ancient culture of one-man rule. Xi from China and Moon from S Korea visited Trump and realized that flattery gets you everywhere. But let's see if Kim Jong un can do BETTER than his predecessors and build his country up It will never denuclearize completely. He doesn't have power to do the other half of the peninsula. It may never be made into one country. So be it. We allowed Pakistan, India, and China to have their nuclear bombs and said nothing or very little. Kim got most of nuclear material for bombs from Khan in Pakistan and then gained money buy selling it or part of it to Iran and Syria. All his father's work, not his. The situation in N Korea would be much better if he can get assistance in building his industrial, technological and civil areas. THEN we might be able to ask for human rights. This is not 1953 nor 1995. Things have changed here just in terms of technology. If we don't help Kim now to re-build, China and/or Moon will and we will be left out in the cold--not because of Trump but because of hardheaded Congress members that refuse to change. Stop blaming the son for the sins of his parents. He has a few of his own, but to him it's only cleaning house.

  74. North Korea has already made concessions by returning 3 American hostages and blowing up nuclear test site while receiving nothing from the US. War games can be restarted if Kim appears later to be acting in bad faith. The liberal media are quick to build up the genius of foreign leaders while denigrating our own.

  75. Returning hostages is a concession? To me, it looks more like a negotiation on the road to getting what Kim wanted at a very low cost. Since tests have been completed, after some failures, that test site may not be necessary. Maybe our intelligence agencies know if it was damaged beyond repair, but that seems to have been a possibility. The problem with helping Kim gain in legitimacy has always been that it's not easy to claw that legitimacy back. Kim is an absolute ruler, but he has to manage internal politics with the military and with the boundaries of what people will bear. This recognition helps him. He looks politically savvy and successful. We have evidence that he's ruthless and it seems unlikely that he will change in that regard.

  76. Correct! I had already said in a previous posting that if any agreement was reached the left would say Mr. Trump had given away the store to get it. The liberal media, perhaps without realizing it, in their fevered efforts to belittle Mr. Trump, have become anti-American.

  77. Hmm. Two of the hostages were take under Trump's watch as bargaining chips and the test site was largely spent out. Try listening to the "liberal" media for some facts.

  78. From what I am reading, Mr. Trump just gave away some of the leverage that we had in regard to North Korea for nothing of use to our country. In the process, he has embraced a murderous dictator, who assigns generations of families to work camps and starves many of his citizens, giving the world the impression that this behavior is ok and that meeting with the dictator responsible is "an honor." I cannot believe that I am seeing an American president behave this way. Further, I cannot believe that our congress is doing nothing, absolutely nothing to stop the destruction of our values and our international relationships.

  79. Agreed that Congress does nothing. So, I ask what is in it for the Republicans? They do nothing without checking with their donors, the NRA, and their wallets. So, which is it this time?

  80. Where you write "I cannot believe that our congress is doing nothing" is consequent and a source as to how Trump was elected to office.

  81. What did he give away exactly that is critical to our leverage? The leverage that Trump engineered to begin with by the way. If you think that saying we won't have military exercises with SK is giving away leverage think it through. If NK doesn't comply and make progress in getting rid of nukes, we'll be right back at having joint exercises. It's nothing that can't be immediately regained. It's a bone to a dog. Period.

  82. Trump has finally found his equal.

  83. I would have used the word superior in this case.

  84. I know Obama had Kim right where he wanted him; flying missiles all over the region including over Japan, accelerating NK nuclear weapons development and threatening to nuke western cities. It might be better put to say, Kim finally found his equal based on the failed efforts of previous presidents to corral NK.

  85. No, he has finally found his superior.

  86. Trump wants to save money. He can not see the value of our funding military protection to wealthy countries. He would like to see South Korea and Japan facilitate their own systems of military protection. Since he does not know about history, he does not see the value of our holding on to power for our own protection. What Trump does see is that other countries are more prosperous, their bullet trains, new airports outshine our worn out Amtrak program. Remember his comments about the new NATO headquarters? He asks, "What's in it for the poor old USA?" So, he will insure our protection by making sure they do not develop programs that can reach our country and the rest can just work itself out.

  87. @Kuhlsue Er...he's just got congress to sign off on a huge increase in the Defense budget. LOL.

  88. Good. Trump can slash the military budget. Oops! He just signed an increase.

  89. Er, the chestnut about a "Dark Ages" military that needs a significant bump in spending is getting a bit over-sold. No matter how much money the military gets, there is never a mention about the "baked in" commission that contractors get, how my fighting force STILL operates with faulty equipment and the lack of compassion for what happens to a farm-boy-made-fighting-machine when he is no longer needed and has to reintegrate back home. Nothing to laugh out loud about.

  90. The Trump Doctrine is: Embrace you enemies and tweet your fiends in the back. When you have an authoritarian personality you love all the other strong men (so far #MeToo hasn't gotten there) and see everyone else as "very weak." Whether you view the summit spectacle as one man being "outfoxed" by the other, or two narcissistic foxes enjoying all the attention and adulation is a matter of perspective and "spin." This may be a "give peace a chance" moment, but it may with two such untrustworthy and volatile men be only that--a moment made to temporarily burnish their dark images at home.

  91. Even if one dislikes Trump and what he stands for, one would hope for a positive outcome from the meeting with Kim Jong-un. The reality is likely to be much less. Trump is not a systematic thinker. He blunders along through life and I expect this will turn out to be another Big Op for him and not much for anyone else.

  92. yes jbishop - here is the yet-to-be-released Big Op press release we can expect from the White House signed by Mr Trump: The settlement of the Korean problem, which has now been achieved is, in my view, only the prelude to a larger settlement in which all Asia may find peace. This morning I had another talk with the murderous North Korean Dictator, and here is the paper which bears his name upon it as well as mine. Some of you, perhaps, have already heard what it contains but I would just like to read it to you: " ... We regard the agreement signed last night and the American-NKorean Friends Forever Agreement as symbolic of the desire of our two peoples never to go to war with one another again." My good friends, for the second time in our history, an American president has returned from Asia bringing peace with honour. I believe it is peace for our time. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Go home and get a nice quiet sleep" Not a systematic (or deep) thinker indeed.

  93. As much as I admire you, Mr. Kristof, and as much as I wish I had your optimism, I think you have been handed Rose-Colored-Glasses. Kim may not be actively testing his nuclear components at this moment, but I saw nothing in the "signed" agreement that swore he wouldn't do so again. My dad was in Korea in the 50's...the underground tunnel nation that Kim has would leave gophers (the bane of any farmer) salivating in envy. The US got nothing. Kim got validation as an equal power on the international stage. And when all is said and done, there was that little "tell" about Donald ... his comments about the wonderful beaches and possible condos. This meeting cost $15,000,000 and was just a photo-op for two facist leaders; one of a nation that thinks he is a god, and the other of a nation that almost 50% thinks he is going to make their life better. A lot of humans who are going to suffer to appease these two egos.

  94. You don't seem to have read the article. Rose colored glasses implies Mr. Kristof found something he liked here. But he didn't.

  95. Excellent observation. Another smoke screen by Trump that his supporters and the republicans in congress will lap up like a hungry dog. Jefferson, Madison, Adams, and Washington - would say King George looked good compared to Trump.

  96. You make good comments here, but aside from conjecturing about the potential quid-pro-quo for Trump's personal gain, you're not in disagreement at all with Mr Kristof, who sees this ordeal very clearly -- no need to question the "optimisim" that Nick never communicated.

  97. " The Art of the Deal" must have been read by Kim.

  98. "Ambassador" Rodman did say he gave a copy of that book to Kim...

  99. Maybe Kim read it and realized its best application is to do precisely the opposite of what was in Trump book?

  100. Well he got a photo op.

  101. The long grass in front of the hotel was very interesting while the hotel itself seemed like a junior replica of the famous Raffles, the bar-room for empire and subject of Somerset Maugham novels. Mind you, Raffles was full of brilliant people who managed to con 300 million residents of the Indian sub-continent that what they really need is 5,000 British bureaucrats to rule them. In contrast the collective IQ of the Trump entourage might achieve double figures.

  102. Yep, two pudgy, mean spirited jerks standing next to one another preening themselves. Nauseating.

  103. @Doug Broome Large parts of India were ruled indirectly through their existing maharajahs, Nawabs, etc. In fact this was the general pattern throughout the British Empire. And it was far from a con although a considerable tour de force that lasted 200 years. By and large it provided peace and security which is what most people want. The Trump entourage certainly don't spend their evenings attending MENSA meetings.

  104. He wasn't outfoxed. Both he and Kim have the same goal: removal of American troops and nuclear umbrella from South Korea. That's what Pompeo was getting agreement on, that's what the summit was all about. This has been the Kims only goal for 65 years. This is the purpose of the nuclear arsenal -- not to bomb the U.S. for no reason, but to force American withdrawal. Trump again committed to withdrawal in his press conference. This is the deal in exchange for destruction of their nuclear weapons. With Trump's acquiescence, Kim is about to win the Korean War.

  105. What kind of exposure does this represent for Japan? It can't be reassuring. Japan is in the G7 and Trump is writing off our allies as a group. I would be concerned.

  106. But there was no deal that involved the destruction of their nuclear weapons.

  107. Yes, I noticed the repeated references to the "Korean Peninsula". A week ago I would have said SK and NK were more united in playing trump but I think Kim realized he could get this......

  108. Let's look on the positive side - Trump opened the door for Kim to reduce and make concessions that others have failed to get, even if it wasn't specifically outlined. And I think we can be sure, if he decides Kim isn't moving toward what President Trump "perceived" their agreement to be the U.S. will be back to having military exercises and war games in North Korea's face.

  109. Others have gotten those same concessions. That's the problem

  110. I believe Kristof assessment is 100% accurate that the big winner is Kim. But I will go one step further. I believe that when Trump realizes he has been out negotiated and he does not get the praise he will be expecting for giving away so much in return for only vague promises; the same promises that have been given by NK before that are likely not worth the paper it has been signed on, Trumps fragile ego and temper will actually make the world less safe. Look how he is responding to the G7 and Canada for perceived slights. It will be a 100 times worse when he finds he has been played by a 3rd world dictator.

  111. To do that would be to admit he got played. No, he'll go on pretending that he got something out of this. Remember - his MO is to repeat a lie (personally and with the help of his friends like Huckabee-Sanders, Pirro, Hannity and Tucker) and it'll become the truth to enough people because the believers will carry his message as if it's one of the tablets Moses brought down from Mount Sinai.

  112. What leads you to believe he'll figure out he's been had? He doesn't believe it, doesn't want to believe it, and so he simply won't ever believe it. Facts, schmacts -- it's his take on reality that is all that counts. And in Trump's world, he's a winner!

  113. He won't "realize" that he was outnegotiated, but when "he does not get the praise he will be expecting," he will launch the mother of all tweetstorms. All very predictable. Only slightly less predictable is how his enablers weigh in. John McCain, we're looking at you.

  114. "In a sense, Trump has eased the tensions that he himself created when he threatened last fall to “totally destroy” North Korea. I’m just not sure a leader should get credit for defusing a crisis that he himself created." Great way of putting the whole strange scenario. I'm baffled why Trump would throw in stopping joint US-South Korea military exercises after the fact. Doesn't Mr. Great Negotiator realize, that once a deal is closed, you need to shut up? Adding that concession (in return for nothing) demonstrates real weakness. I'm sure Kim Jong-un is aware of Trump's lust for a Nobel, so all he had to do was smile, nod yes, and let Donald do all the talking as he's want to do. I also thought the art of the deal was never to show your hand before the final deal was done? On that score alone, this was an epic fail, but one that Trump will crow about through the mid-terms.

  115. C, The President has already done several things that have made us safer than we were under Obama. Obama received a Peace Prize for just showing up. Why stop joint military exercises? After 8 long years of neglect our military needs mantinance and new equipment. High readiness alearts and field exercises wear out equipment. It will take years of restored budgets to undo Obama’s damage to our military!

  116. Richard, I think it the unending wars in the Middle East - thanks to Dubya - that have taken the toll on the military to which you refer. That said, since Neville Trump has negotiated peace in our time, we wont need that ramped up military spending the Right so fetishizes, now will we?

  117. I guess joint military exercises put off tourists at potential beach resorts.

  118. What took place in Singapore was theater. It was staged by Donald Trump to benefit Donald Trump. American interests have been irreparably damaged, but Donald Trump does not begin to understand the extent of that damage. America got nothing from the so-called denuclearization agreement. Donald Trump may have bought himself some time by giving Republicans some phony talking points for the mid-term elections.

  119. I’d argue that this theater was staged by Russia and China, more than Trump. Russia and China are now playing clever, by propping up Trump with an illusion of a diplomatic win, while Trump does their bidding in destabilizing western democratic alliances and legitimizing dictators across the world. Well played, by the world’s autocrats; their asset is performing according to script.

  120. It was theater alright, but it was staged by Putin, the grand puppet master. Soon the gas will flow from Russia through North Korea into the South while we pack our bags and head on out.

  121. I suppose, Just Curious, that a spymaster who is highly skilled at managing an asset reaches a point with an asset wooed over time by bribery and flattery when the asset – assuming he has large gaps of ignorance and an immense ego – thinks that his ideas, words and actions are his own. The asset (let’s call him Donald Trump) has no inkling that someone else has prepared the script. Vladimir Putin possesses those spymaster skills, and Xi Jinping certainly has access to people with those skills. It’s a fascinating scenario, Just Curious, but I really think Russia and China are more competitors with each other than allies. Also, Donald Trump exhibited blind avarice, self-promotion, inflated sense of personal ability and unquenchable love of power long before he ever met Putin and Xi.

  122. As much as Trump's ignorance and arrogance is scary, it is more scary that millions of American people who support him cannot see it. Why? Are they just like him or are they royally duped? Either scenario is not any better. With each additional Trump debacles that destroy our democracy, rule of law and international standing, I find it less able to forgive them. I am furious, I am sad, very sad. These are my fellow country people. To make America great does not mean just to have strong economy, science, infrastructures, military, etc. First and foremost, it means to make American people great. How can a people who have no truths, no liking for truths, no respect for rule of law, no respect for democracy, and no ability to think critically, be great?

  123. Right. If we only had the modest and demure Hillary, advised by the #MeToo First Spouse.

  124. While the election is over, and I see no point in discussing alternatives, I do occasionally dream that the election of Hubert Humphrey would have spared us the Nixon fiasco that led to his impeachment and many associates going to jail and that the election of Al Gore might have spared us the endless war in Iraq and Afghanistan that appears to be leading nowhere. (But history never reveals the alternatives).

  125. Yesterday, a friend I work with walked up to me very frustrated; her office mate is a Trump devotee and said to my friend with a straight face. "Trump doesn't lie." This person is representative of Trump's faithful followers. It's no longer a political leaning; it's a cult. Blindly following a single person as if he were a deity to be worshiped, with no critical thought, and consuming only the Fox News doctrine. Trump's shameless inhumanity is what makes this whole thing so frightening, especially since most of his worshippers are "evangelicals." If only they could see that you can't be faithful to both Trump and to Jesus. It's just not possible.

  126. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

  127. . . or sometimes, a single misstep into the abyss.

  128. Yes, but the step should be forward.

  129. As were many steps he's obliterated.

  130. So much winning. I'm getting tired of all this winning. What a shrewd businessman he is!

  131. Frankly, whether or not this meeting will actually yield any denuclearization in North Korea, will hopefully he’ll the Trump who is less likely to unilaterally provoke a war. The biggest danger to our country security is not North Korea, it is Donald Trump. Let’s hope that danger has been Slightly ameliorated by trumps opportunity for self aggrandizement in Singapore.

  132. Since Trump believes his own propaganda, it should hardly cause surprise that Kim could play him for the fool by flattering him. What remains unclear to me, however, are the economic dimensions of this 'agreement.' Did Trump agree to lift sanctions or provide any form of economic aid, as was the case with former presidents? If not, then North Korea's triumph may lack substance.

  133. "I’m just not sure a leader should get credit for defusing a crisis that he himself created." I have no doubt that he should not get credit for such an inglorious accomplishment. I also have no doubt that he will claim he deserves credit (and a Nobel Peace Prize) for it.

  134. He reminds me of the arsonist who calls the fire department. "Wow, had I not called for help, God knows what could have happened."

  135. Obama didn't deserve his Nobel. Perhaps he may have uttered the word "peace" but he himself did not earn it. POTUS is a blowhard and was completely out of his league with Un. Time will tell if he actually gets rid of his arsenal and possibly open borders. As Yogi Berra so eloquently said..."I'll see it when I believe it".

  136. While we can all apparently breathe a bit easier that these two "leaders" are not currently hurling insults at each other, and have engaged at some level, I do also think it wise to not ridicule Trump for getting outmaneuvered. If we've learned nothing else in these last eighteen months we have surely learned that Trump is at his most chaotic, and most dangerous, when he feels he is being viewed as a chump. For the sake of world peace, until we can hopefully move beyond this dark period, let's "influence block" him rather than confront him head-on. The objective now is survival until we can once again move forward

  137. Agree. The more the Liberal press and the Democrats ridicule this meeting, the better it is for Trump and the Republicans. This meeting was all about bragging rights and will just further galvanize his base. In reality. It’s only real purpose was about all helping the Republicans hold the House so that the Democrats cannot go after him with endless committees, including finally getting those tax elusive tax returns.

  138. You're probably right but is this really what our country has come to? Fawning all over a wanna be dictator so he doesn't get irritable and destroy us all?

  139. Interesting take --- let's wait and see what the details are..... The Iran deal and the climate change accord were both created with great fanfare, but the actual agreements were toothless. Let's see what comes out of the specifics.

  140. The Paris Accord and the Iran Deal were both steps in the right direction. To have left them was small minded.

  141. The Iran deal included UN inspections and the Paris accord on climate change had built-in penalties for countries that failed to meet their targets. Neither was "toothless."

  142. The Iran deal was far from toothless. We were able to verify that Iran destroyed almost all of their nuclear capacity. We had inspectors in Iran ensuring they couldn't restart their nuclear program. Far, far more than what Trump got from Kim and far, far less than what Trump promised he would get. Meanwhile, Trump promised a better deal with Iran - have your heard anything about that lately?

  143. Maybe President Trump was not outfoxed. Maybe he accomplished his mission, following Vlad's orders just as he did at the G-7 meeting. The real question for us is, will America wake up and defend itself ?

  144. Time to hit the streets. Protest marches. Only thousands on the street will scare a dictator. Enough preaching to the choir. Enough. Democracy is the right to protest> use it or lose it.

  145. America can best defend itself by getting rid of Trump.

  146. Such exercises are really not needed much, and can be started again easily. Once again highly biased opinion, their hate of the president clouds whatever brain they have.

  147. So tell us all the concessions that the US got because the rest of us cant see them.

  148. I don't hate the president. I hate ignorance, bigotry and avarice. I am perfectly capable of separating the sin from the sinner. You, on the other hand, "see no evil and hear no evil" and don't seem to allow Trump's words and actions to penetrate your brain--just the glow of his reality tv saintliness, I guess. Even he said that he could shoot someone on 5th avenue and get away with it. He was right.

  149. Yes, there must be a "special place in hell" for journalists who tell the truth about our loony President and his sycophantic enablers.

  150. Here is a reading of the historical power balance in the peninsula. The North has about twice the number of tanks that the South has, many more artillery pieces and about 5000 rocket projectors vs. 214 for the South ( All at about 35 miles from Seoul. To counter that, the US/South Korea alliance has tactical nukes. Now the North is negotiating a removal of the nukes from both sides. We will go back to a practical dominance of the North in conventional weaponry. I cannot see how Kim can lose this deal, and surely not with Trump on the other side. I would be smiling too as he is in the picture.

  151. Thank you for pointing this out. A big part of diplomacy is the subtle change that can be evoked in language.We started this by calling for the denuclearization of North Korea and this led to the cancellation of the summit. When it was restored we heard the phrase "the denuclearization of the peninsula".Even the US used this as a synonym. This is what comes about through self-glory and ignorance .

  152. Those tanks of the North are ancient and decrepit. The South has the latest and best tanks, and would eat them alive like the US Army did Saddam's. The one danger from the North is one the US can't save them from, the massive conventional deterrent attack on Seoul launched from the deep caves lining the border. The only cure for that is peace, which is why the South's President pushed it so hard.

  153. Relax! The meeting was a first step! Negotiations are not over! Yes, the meeting was theater -- something which serves the personal interests of BOTH of these leaders. We might not like their egoism, but it's the world's reality for now. The cancellation of military exercises with South Korea can be taketh as well as giveth if Kim Jong-un doesn't reciprocate in good faith. Maybe, just maybe, an initial act of good faith on the part of the United States will move the goal of denuclearization further. Let's hope so - the alternative is too awful to contemplate.

  154. First of all, this is like meeting Hitler. His country is hell for his people and he's being effusively praised by our president. Also, our negotiator in chief is the only person who gave up anything. You've got to be measured in your tone out of respect for their people. What hope would it give any citizen of a totalitarian regime to see what's happening here? As to nukes, they get to keep them I guess...

  155. Of course the liberal opposition will discredit this achievement. It would prefer the "strategic patience" policy of the former president, a policy of do nothing and hope for the best. This kind of commentary only makes me and the rest of America more steadfast in our support of Donald J. Trump, the President of the United States, and assures us that we made the right decision on November 8, 2016. I support the President. I support Trump. Trump has triumphed. He has triumphed triumphantly and he will continue to triumph through 2024. Then God only knows what's in store for our nation. Thank you.

  156. The "rest of America" as you put it that supposedly support out illigitmate president consists of barely more than three out of 10 people.

  157. As a psychologist, my ears always perk up when clients repeatedly say things, using the same word multiple times. I generally interpret this as an area in which the client is unsure and is unsuccessfully trying to convince himself of something.

  158. Actually, Trump is continuing the strategic patience exhibited by his predecessors. Others have extracted promises of future better behavior and we continue to wait. I can give this administration credit for accomplishing a return of prisoners and extending a handshake in hopes of beginning a nuclear dialogue down the road, but I cannot give it credit for an accomplishment that comes anywhere near the concrete achievement of the Iranian nuclear deal that Trump so casually and disdainfully discarded.

  159. You mean to say we don't already have a plan to reduce North Korea to rubble on demand? We need to keep practicing it over and over?

  160. Trump certainly has no plan for anything. Like a blind man - theowing out praises and calumnies with no much aim.

  161. Trump isn't looking to actually accomplish anything; he is all about marketing. He wants is to APPEAR, through photos and statements, like he accomplished something. He operates as a brand, not as a steward for our country's interests. If this marketing ploy prevents Bolton from bombing North Korea, that's the best we can hope for.

  162. "Trump isn't looking to actually accomplish anything; he is all about marketing. He wants is to APPEAR, through photos and statements, like he accomplished something. He operates as a brand, not as a steward for our country's interests." This, exactly. But the saddest, most pathetic part of it all? You can bet that anyone pointing out this blindingly obvious fact will be dubbed a world-peace-hating traitor by the brainwashed media (Fox news et al.), pundits, and the morally corrupt GOP. Because substance and facts just don't matter anymore.

  163. So, Trump went to Singapore and bought the Brooklyn bridge. The best deal he ever made.

  164. His first concession was to beg the two-bit dictator of a half-country for a "summit", something no other president would have even considered. All previous agreements were made through negotiations at the lowest possible level.

  165. That worked out so well, right? Don't defend failure just because Trump did something different (that might or might not accomplish anything).

  166. Dear Robert Beard, I don't like Mr. Trump either, but all the previous agreements went no where, so why not try something else. He did not give up anything other than to suspend the joint military exercises. The sanctions are still in place. Our military is still stationed in South Korea. Let's wait and see.

  167. "The most remarkable aspect of the joint statement was what it didn’t contain. There was nothing about North Korea freezing plutonium and uranium programs, nothing about destroying intercontinental ballistic missiles, nothing about allowing inspectors to return to nuclear sites, nothing about North Korea making a full declaration of its nuclear program, nothing about a timetable, nothing about verification, not even any clear pledge to permanently halt testing of nuclear weapons or long-range missiles." These little "details" don't matter to Trump's base. They just see that Trump made a deal, and are with him on it.

  168. Nothing in The Manchurian Candidate comes close to the betrayal of American values, principles and policies that Donald Trump did in Singapore. As you noted, we have a president who attacks leaders of liberal democracies and embraces dictators ranging from Kim to Putin to Erdogan. Can you imagine how Republicans and Democrats alike would be out for blood had John Kennedy praised Nikita Kruschev, or Richard Nixon had applauded Fidel Castro? Mr. Trump's statement that Kim "loves his people" is as disgusting as if FDR had said despite his shortcomings, Adolph Hitler loves (most of) the German people. The U.S. has a treasonous president who repeatedly violates the solemn oath of office he swore to, and is betraying the American people while trying to rob them of their Republic. And, no, there are not two sides to this discussion despite what some commenters here seem to believe,

  169. While Trump deserves some credit for opening a door it is interesting to watch him in action - no bluster, bravado or tough-guy scowl and demeanor - he appears nervous, awkward and possibly intimidated by the magnitude of this event. Quite a contrast to his disgraceful performance at G-7. As the days pass we'll no doubt hear how he "played" Kim and achieved a monumental feat... greater and bigger than anything anyone has ever seen. Well, as POTUS is fond of stating, "We'll see." Yes indeed we will see, hopefully the future will witness a trek toward denuclearization but this will require a long, patient, frustrating journey, involving skilled experienced negotiators who have a knowledge of the history and understanding of the complexity of this situation. POTUS needs to relinquish his role here and accept the fact there are people far more qualified and experienced to now assume their rightful place on center stage but given this man and his insatiable need for adulation and confirmation of his greatness there is certainly every reason to be skeptical.

  170. Yes, one giant photo-op. What worries me is that even if NK does indeed denuclearize, their materials and talent will likely go to the highest bidders, possibly even those committed to the destruction of the US.

  171. They've got that knowledge. What will make us safer in these circumstances? Confrontation or outreach? Yes, it would be better if they did not have that knowledge, but that is far behind us, an option missed.

  172. Perhaps the US is one of those bidders. Trump loves his nukes and he needed to meet privately with Kim. Trump has made sneaky deals in all kinds of arenas why should this be different.

  173. Is the suspension of military exercises really a concession? Suspending them is not the same as agreeing to never conduct them again. Suspension could be interpreted as an act of good will preliminary to further negotiations and conditioned upon continued good behavior. And if I recall correctly, you once thought Trump's agreement to meet with Kim was a good move. As for providing "legitimacy" to Kim, what does that mean as a practical matter? Kim's family has been running the place with an iron hand for a long time. We didn't (or couldn't). put an end to that regime during the Korean WarThey have done business with a lot of countries that apparently consider them legitimate. What more legitimacy do they need? Just what concessions do you think America could make that would entice North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons?

  174. We didn't get anything out of this meeting. Only Kim did. Is that a good deal? I guess you are arguing that it is, that some movement is better than none. So far we are the only ones moving.

  175. Yes indeed, plus I'm quite sure the U.S. military has enough training to crush North Korea even without these exercises.. Also, everyone still knows that this Kim is a the dictator of a poor country. Good will & trust is what we need and for once Trump seems to be doing the right thing.

  176. They agreed to begin negotiations to see if they can reach an agreement. Wasn't that where we were before Trump was elected? We all hope for the best. And Kristof is right: negotiations are much better than threats and insults. But somehow I had expected either more or less than this. Either nothing or some kind of genuine concession from North Korea. I hadn't really foreseen that would give things up and get nothing in return.

  177. We've gotten three hostages back, a total cessation of nuclear test detonations, a total cessation of missile tests, a joint appearance at the Olympics, and now this. And since the value of the "this" completely escapes Mr. Kristoff, let me spell it out. Kim has now shown the world, and his own people, that diplomacy pays and that the DPRK is a "good actor" on the world stage. This move, as image and PR heavy as it was, essentially boxes Kim in; he can't go back to bellicosity without his own people and allies (China) doubting his consistency and ability to lead. In short, the DPRK propaganda machine is like a supertanker. It moves with a tremendous amount of force, but almost no agility. And Trump just managed to steer that supertanker in a completely new direction. True, it took ramping up sanctions, a stepped up naval blockade against Chinese shipping into the DPRK, and a lot of squabbling and insults on Twitter, but look at how much we've gotten in return for this compared to the nothing that decades of "strategic patience" got us. And if we discontinue our costly joint military exercises on the peninsula, this is a win too. Let the Republic of Korea pay for its own military readiness; they have an Army and Air Force that's more than a match for the DPRK's, and don't need us. Trump was right to take this approach. When you're negotiating a tough deal, you go to where the power is. In this case, it's Kim. This was a good start.

  178. You set out the pros very nicely. I didn't want to recommend this because, I didn't totally agree, but you make some good points. I'm not sure it was a good start as you say, but it is also good to see the other view of it all. in a logical manner.

  179. Kim has shown the world and his people that he suffers no consequences for being a brutal, merciless dictator and that he can make the US dance to his tune while giving away nothing. Trump is an empty-headed con. Thus during the elections he could promise a "better, cheaper, more comprehensive" health care for all (based on his self-proclaimed "business acumen" and "negotiating skills") and his supporters lapped it up. Then when he got into office this promise completely evaporated. "Who knew it was so complicated?" he complained. Well, everybody except you. This will end the same way. He has no idea what a "win" looks like here because he doesn't even know what the US and our allies want and why. He even signaled this to his adversary before the meeting by bragging about not preparing. The NK team must have been elated. So the best we can hope for is that this whole charade has been a nothing burger that temporarily staves off overt aggression. Trump's next move will be to say in a couple months "who knew nuclear disarmament was so complicated?" The answer? Everybody but you.

  180. "[L]ook at how much we've gotten in return." I'm looking, and I can't currently see anything received in return except some words and a photo op that equates the USA with a tiny, impoverished dark spot on the world map. Yay. Kim's propaganda machine will find a handy scapegoat (US, RoK, Japan, etc.) for when they decide to do their next provocation.

  181. While it certainly wasn't a home run I think you're being overly pessimistic. Trump gave up temporary stuff that can be undone at any time. It's not like he is withdrawing troops from SK or signed a peace treaty with NK. There just aren't going to be any joint military exercises as long as Trump feels things are moving in the right direction. That actually gives him leverage over Kim because a resumption of the joint exercises will make him look bad.

  182. What indication does Trump have that they're moving in the right direction when all he got out of Kim was the same vague promise of denuclearization NK has been making since the 90's?

  183. The problem presented by the extravagant theatrics in Singapore is the high profile demonstration that nuclear weapons are the ticket to international acclamation and respect. As Kim gains prestige, respect and power by building scary machinery, other will follow. NK has a long history of extortion, and the Donald has become a willing accessory to more of the same.

  184. What, nobody knew that before now?

  185. Kim is a very seasoned strategist. He has to be to remain in power. I am certain he had Trump weighed up long ago and with the briefing he received from China, it was all a show to make Trump look good, feel on top of the world and release some of the sanctions etc. Kim indeed outfoxed Trump. I am sure he laughed all the way home.

  186. From what I have been able to discern, Trump's reputation as the world's greatest dealmaker is a concoction and a fantasy, based on a largely fictional representation of his days in New York as a self-styled real estate developer of glitzy (nee gaudy) properties peddled through hyperbole and hokum. And the simple, fundamental truth is that in his time in office so far, he has excelled in the category of "deals" only at breaking existing ones.

  187. Anyone who's paid attention to Trump's negotiating skills over the years could have seen this coming. He gives things away for nothing. According to a lengthy piece in Politico, Trump's co-author on The Art of the Deal received half of the $500,000 advance and half of the royalties. That's unheard of for a ghostwriter on this kind of book, even when said writer receives credit. Trump got taken. And he appears not to have learned his lesson. He immediately agreed to the same 50-50 split when negotiating with the producer of "The Apprentice." When the show was a success after its first season, Trump asked for a giant raise from the $50,000 per show he'd agreed to, to $1 million. What did NBC give him? $60,000 per show. Fast forward to his presidency. What did he get by agreeing to move the US embassy to Jerusalem--something that could have advanced peace in the region? Nothing. In Singapore, round one goes to Little Rocket Man.

  188. Good points. A very similar situation happened with ZTE: Here was a company which admitted to damaging the security of the U.S. by selling our technology to Iran and NK. The original draconian penalties imposed caused China to panic and show weakness. This gave Trump a powerful leverage to use in negotiations with China regarding their unfair trade practices, but instead of taking advantage, he let them off the hook for a paltry billion dollar penalty (which means nothing to a state-supported company with access to unlimited funds) and the promise to change business practices.

  189. Trump also got from China 1/2 Billion USD for his hotel and numerous design patents for Ivanka. He negotiated for himself, not us.

  190. NA from NYC, I beg to differ. In each case he got exactly what he wanted: attention. Just as a child will risk a spanking (no pun intended) acting out to get attention, so has Trump given up money and the respect of the US, to be known as an "author", TV celebrity "strongman", and a "respected" world leader.God, his bottomless neediness is becoming so embarrassing, I almost pity him. Almost.

  191. Not sure I agree with you Nick. This may prove to be a big one. Kim seeks change, as high-level defectors have reported. He spoke this week of "blinders" in his family's dynasty that have held his people back. He sees what the world is like now, beyond his hermitage. And he must have been warmed by crowds who cheered him for coming and doing the right thing.

  192. Kim is familiar with the outside world. He went to boarding school in Switzerland. I’m sorry, given the close range brutal executions of his family members and other challenges to his power, I don’t believe he wants real government reform. He wants money and power. I guess that’s why he and Trump get along.

  193. Cancelling a joint exercise costs nothing. Sounds like it went pretty close to as planned. But, it's more important to portray Trump as weak than find a solution on the Korean peninsula.

  194. No, the joint exercise is a major demonstration of America's commitment to the defense of its ally South Korea. Trump just sold them down the river.

  195. Nick, cogent, hard-headed analysis. Perhaps Trump feels comfortable enough with Kim to emigrate to North Korea after he is indicted. But Russia and the Philippines (at least under Duterte) are also options. His reign of error can't end too soon. Long live the Atlantic alliance.

  196. Mathew, They Atlantic Alliance will live longer only if the other partners take it seriously and pay their fair share of its cost.

  197. I would have been surprised if the US got anything out of the deal other than another photo op with a dictator. Trump staged a reality show, complete with a celebrity {?}, to satisfy his base. In preparation for the event, he trashed our allies and barely held himself back from telling them they were fired. What a tough guy. While I think we may now have less of a threat of an immediate nuclear disaster, we have a much greater threat from having a president who seems to be creating a new group of allies consisting of the US, North Korea, Russia and China. Trump's claims of success show his lack of fitness to be our president. He is clueless, emotionally needy, and only able to keep playing his role of "huckster goes to Washington."

  198. "Huckster"?Don't you mean mobster?

  199. Ah not only was trump a complete failure, now we have jeopardized our asian allies as well. If this is negotiations, I want it for my fellow teachers. Hey, close all those useless charter schools and schools of choice and raise teachers salaries across the nation by 50%. Ok, Ok, Ill only take 45%.

  200. It's truly astounding how some writers can look at anything and be so pessimistic. Are things not progressed from where they were yesterday? Imagine that someone different had been the president but held the same meetings—would it have been such an abject failure? I get this is an opinion piece, but that doesn't free it from the principles of honest writing and optimism about the future, something our country is in dire need of.

  201. So optimism about the future - at least they are not threatening each other, but this is no great deal by anyone's definition. There was a verifiable deal with Iran and it was working and served as a framework for going forward but Trump tore that up. Here he has made concessions that put the US in weaker negotiating position and gets nothing substantial from NK. So, yeah, optimism. In the meantime we are insulting our nearest neighbor and all of our democratic allies. Sure, let's give Trump the Nobel prize because he behaves like a spoiled 2 year old and we are so grateful he isn't throwing a tantrum!

  202. Kristof's point, I believe, was that it seems that Trump already gave away something (military exercises with S. Korea) while getting nothing in return. What progress was made for the U.S. other than a meeting and lots of pomp and circumstance? For goodness sake, when Obama even suggested that he would be willing to meet with our enemies, Republicans were apoplectic but now that Trump actually does it, he's a great statesman and peacemaker. If you read the entire article, you would have seen that Kristof, like all of us, do want this to be successful. Given Trump's track record, both before and after he became president, it's very easy to be skeptical.

  203. Just by looking at the facts the meeting was an utter failure. But remember where things began, Trump started thowing calumnies at Kim and Kim followed with rocket tests. As if both wanted to make a theater on the international scale that ended yesterday. Except that Kim completely outmatched Trump. We are in the worse position that we were 3 years ago.

  204. Notice how much more comfortable Trump is with Kim than leaders of democratic countries. No one can be surprised by this. Dictators love other dictators.

  205. And aims to become one himself I fear.

  206. Because dictators agree with each other that there should be no debate. They hate debate.

  207. @straighttalk Notice how Obama was more comfortable with Socialist leaders than with American politicians, including democrats?

  208. Critics of the Singapore summit claim that Kim Jong-un got what he wanted out of the summit - sitting down with and being treated as an equal by a respected Western leader - without giving up anything concrete in return. Maybe I missed it but when did Kim get to sit down with the respected Western leader? I only saw him with Donald Trump.

  209. Thank you. I needed that laugh.

  210. US military exercises - 'War Games' - on the border on North and South Korea ARE provocative. Designating them as such is not falling for North Korean 'propaganda'. The USA has a history of committing war crimes in that country; the North Koreans have every reason to to trust America. The bottom line is that there can be no progress on the issue of NK without that concession; it is basic and fundamental... And totally reasonable.

  211. Is it reasonable to expect that nothing - zip and zero - would be given in exchange? Is it sane to say that this sort of one-sided exchange is good, one "achieved" after a few hours of meetings and photo ops, especially when you just withdrew from a Nuclear agreement that was several order of magnitudes better, an agreement that was painstakingly hammered out over years, and one you have brayed is a lousy deal?

  212. There is nothing reasonable about cancelling the exercises. They are there to enhance the defensive mission of the U.S. presence in North Korea. The war that was started was begun by North Korea, which attached the South. The concession is nothing more than requiring the allies to let down their guard, and decades of North Korean provocations show that such shouldn't happen.

  213. All of this news coverage so Trump can do what he does best. Make a meaningless splash in front of the cameras. He's more concerned with condo's in North Korea than with the complexities of diplomacy. Much like his claim that he's "been Russia's worst nightmare" he just makes it up as he goes along. This entire administration is a dismal failure at home and abroad. He has no coherent policies and is concerned with enriching himself and his family and staying out of jail. And the complicit Republicans remain silent. Welcome to the authoritarian state of America.

  214. Mr. Kristof, Apparently you are not aware of Trump's extensive reading about denuclearization. Always the inquisitive , voracious reader Trump said " “You know, scientifically, I’ve been watching and reading a lot about this, and it does take a long time to pull off complete denuclearization,” Trump said. “It takes a long time scientifically, you have to wait certain periods of time, and a lot of things happen." Who among us would have any doubts about the veracity of that statement? Mr. Scientist really, really knows whereof he speaks and his supporters are enthralled and impressed by his intelligence and in depth knowledge. Also, it was Trump's honesty and candor that convinced Kim to sign the agreement since Kim didn't have " the confidence " in any president before Trump. Oh, and those beaches and possible condo sites in N. Korea are certainty a plus. Well, with this meeting and the agreement we will have peace in our time. Sound familiar? BTW-- Trump cited the tragedy of Adam Warmbier as motivation for this meeting even though human right issues were not mentioned in the agreement. Politicization of his death by Trump? Perish the thought. Once a con man , always a con man. The problem lies with those who revel in such hogwash and defend it.

  215. This is a first step in the negotiations. In any negotiation it take numerous times to finalize everything. Anyone that expects a complete overhaul of this magnitude in one meeting is living in dreamland. Wake up and let the process begin instead of undercutting the first round.

  216. Really. And what process would that be. Apparently you forgot that this meeting had been hyped by Trump and the R's as a vehicle for Trump to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. BTW-- What process -- some vaguely worded promise to meet in the future to discuss " denuclearization"? Trump's gibberish about how much he know about the denuclearization should be a wake up call to Trump supporters. Unfortunately , they pushed the snooze button and went back to sleep. The process should have started prior to he meeting as most experts agree should have been the case. Trump was to intent on a photo op and publicity to take the necessary steps. Trump supporters are to stuck in the " ostrich principle" to view this as to what it is-- a nothing burger.

  217. Too soon to declare Trump "outfoxed". So what -- he suspends military exercises? They can be resumed double. He met him? Sounds necessary to make a deal. Past negotiations and policy led to the crises that we now face of a nuclear North Korea. Trump did not create this, praising past efforts while declaring this one a failure in its first day belie a hatred of Trump that biases the analysis of current events and does a disservice to the readers. The past playbook with North Korea was a failure, time for something different, let's see what Trump does first. Judgements are best based on facts, not biases. Democrats hated Ronald Regan during the Cold War, now most venerate his foreign policy success and forget the vitriol of the 1980s.

  218. Democrats didn't hate Reagan in the 80s, and they don't venerate him now. (It's that kind of "all or nothing" thinking that characterizes a certain other political party.) Trump gave plenty, and got essentially nothing. That's not negotiation.

  219. He clearly gave up more than he received. That is not hatred but fact. True much of what was accomplished was symbolic but that was the whole point of the meeting. I think that virtually all Americans want Trump to succeed with North Korea however when you lambaste our closest allies and then praise a ruthless dictator that is clearly aberrant behaviour that Republicans refuse to acknowledge. What specific foreign policy "successes" do Democrats now venerate?

  220. Regan is seen as the architect of the end of the USSR and the renewal of American power following the humiliations of the Vietnam War and the hostage crises with Iran. In 1980 the USA was a country reeling from military defeat and uncertainty with an inefficient and outdated military, by 1988 it was renewed and drove the USSR to collapse through competition, not military confrontation.

  221. Neither man is trustworthy. Either could turn on the other tomorrow. There's no reason to feel more secure. All we got was a "joint statement." Not an agreement to do anything, really, except for US/SK military exercises to cease. Kim gave up nothing and still has his nuclear weapons pointed at the US. Trump supporters will laud their great leader, as the North Korean people will theirs. But, the world is no safer from these two clowns than it was yesterday.

  222. This article is premature - let the process play-out and then judge. This could save the lives of millions of people - support the president even if you otherwise don’t agree with him.

  223. Given how devoid of content the joint statement reads, there seems to have been no need for the summit at all. Essentially, the two leaders agreed to have their minions meet, but a promise such as this one certainly did not require the expense of a Presidential trip to Singapore. A quick phone call would have been enough. Maybe something can be worked out between the U.S. and North Korea, but it won't be because of this photo op summit.

  224. After years of negotiations involving multiple countries, a deal was made with Iran which was then trashed immediately by right wing cynics, and then torn up by Trump, in spite of the fact that it was working. Yet these same cynics and conservatives are saying let this play out, in spite of the fact that this "deal" was made without input by any of our allies, in fact while trashing our allies, and by a man who said he didn't need to prepare. I am glad Trump and Kim are such great friends now because at least the likelihood of war has been diminished, but this was a "deal" made after a crisis of trump's own making and it doesn't really change anything. NK still has nuclear weapons and missiles.

  225. If you read the last paragraph, you would know that that is what Kristof said.

  226. There once was a leader of a great democracy who said that he trusted the word of a vile dictator and as a result he was able to promise the world "peace in our time". We all know how that ended. I would be surprised if Trump even knows who that man was. Our allies are not welcome but he admires the North Korean dictator's talent and toughness and would be glad to receive him in the People's House. Although America may still have a powerful military Mr Trump's ad hoc policies have completely destroyed America's global moral authority. And without moral authority leadership evaporates.

  227. Mr.Trump has a way of saying things that he wants to believe, assuming from that point on they are reality rather than belief. Think of the size of the crowds at the inauguration, Trumpcare that would replace the Affordable Care Act, and now lasting peace with North Korea. We'll just have to wait to see how this works out.

  228. It works out like this Alan: Trump decimates any trace of Obama's legacy. Like it never even happened.

  229. Mm hmm—"we'll see what happens."

  230. I am not a Trump supporter but do hope the meeting between Trump and Kim will lead to better relations. What really irks me is that if Obama or Clinton had proceeded to meet in the same manner they would have been ostracized by Republicans and all their efforts would have been undermined. Does anyone remember when Obama declared he would be willing to meet with our enemies? Republicans thought that was outrageous! They said, in one big voice, that our president couldn’t meet with enemy leaders, that it would risk elevating that enemy leader and have grave consequences for for our country. When he paved the way to opening Cuba, same thing. I get it, Democratic presidents can only work on reforming social programs or reducing the debt but Republicans can work on almost anything else — from meeting with our enemies to expanding our future debt. Probably unrealistically, I long for a time when political parties can join together to work on all aspects of government without undermining the efforts of the opposing party.

  231. Well Katherine the hard fact is that Obama and Clinton could never do what Trump's done by getting North Korea to the negotiating table. The cultural elite's cosmopolitan globalism was a dud, as were they.

  232. True. You correctly stated what the Republican response would have been had either Clinton or Obama done this. However you conveniently left out how Kristof and others of his ilk (i.e. Democrats) would have responded. They would have been extolling the brilliance of the move, and touting the need for Nobel’s all around.

  233. I see these talks as a positive sign, and have never totally accepted that Putin is running our country by Trump proxy. But I still can't help but put the Singapore meeting in the context of Trump's trashing of the G-7 meeting and wonder how any of this can possibly benefit Trump and his interests. If this is not part of Putin's design to destabilize the West, and weaken the forces traditionally aligned against him, then what motivates Trump to undo any and all existing stability on one hand, while trying to stitch together new measures of peaceful co-existence on the other? Whatever it is, it is becoming clear that the world's politics, economics and balance of power will never be the same after Trump is through with them. And for better or worse, the US and its place in the world will also never be the same.

  234. For better or for worse? Would you please explain how "better" fits into this equation?

  235. My money is on "for worse," personally.

  236. What has changed here, if anything, is the Republican Party's red lines on North Korea. Just as their intransigent "opposition in principle" to blowing up the deficit melted away when it was their own guy doing it for their reasons, so they have quietly acquiesced to NK's status as a nuclear power, in return for a pretended process of denuclearisation. For partisan advantage. What remains to be seen is how able Trump is to keep the hawks on board as it becomes clear that nothing of substance has been achieved.

  237. "melted away when it was their own guy doing it" While Democrats are going full hard-line, because it is a Republican doing it, Trump at that. There are very few in the American political class who are worth the air they breathe.

  238. To be fair, the true test of that would be if Trump came back with a plausible deal of substance and Democrats still opposed it. He hasn't, so in this context at least the point is moot.

  239. The only good outcome of this would be for John Bolton to quit as National Security Advisor--or have Trump can him.

  240. Another great article in the post Kim-Meets-Trump series. Just a small remark from abroad : nobody with a minute sense of objectivity would contest that the huge regular joint US-South Corea exercices definitely are a bit provocative. Of course, it was not Trump's script to acknowledge so but imagine for an instant North-Corea and China exhibiting every other year their joint air and naval power at the limit of the US territorial waters, in front of Los Angeles or San Francisco...

  241. Oh come on Mr. Kristof, surely there are many many huge, but unannounced, benefits for us in this deal. Like maybe a Trump branded hotel/casino project?

  242. Ultimately, the reality of the agreement will come when the details are hammered out - UN inspectors, actual changes in military posture, evidence of destruction of weapons, moving troops, criteria for reducing sanctions. As much as it galls me to say it, I agree with Kristof that we are better off now than we were when "fire and fury" was echoing through the ether. And, still, at what cost was this agreement reached? Our word has lost credibility with our allies, and the world's worst dictators have been lauded.

  243. "Ultimately, the reality of the agreement will come when the details are hammered out " And that will never happen. Because there is simply no "reality of the agreement."

  244. Trump used the summit to further solidify his hold over the Trumpsters with an international photo op. He accomplished his primary goal. I expect we'll be seeing more of these historic peace treaties with dictators everywhere. Iran is next up on the agenda.

  245. We will see ho well this "agreement" really was. The next time North Korea has its military parade in Kim Il-Song Square. That should occur on their next holiday, about August or so. Trump pulled a Geroge W. Bush; when Mr. Bush claimed he looked into Putin's eyes and trusted him. Well, guess what, stupidity strikes twice for the GOP. The only thing that may actually make this successful, is that KIm Jong-un is sitting on a powder keg and improving the lives of North Koreans is a must. The day Mr. Kim came to power, he promised a new North Korea, that included a better economy, more freedoms, etc. The people are still waiting. Shiny new buildings in Pyongyang, a ski resort, new equestrian facilities, a water park, etc. does not help most who live on mere dollars a day and continue to make a "sacrifice to the state". In the mean time, spending billions to blow up the world and fund an ever money hungry armed services. What Kim wanted, was hard currency from the US and South Korea, to feather his own nest and keep his dictatorship going strong. He may actually get those roads and rail roads fixed, as well has an improved power grid. How? Us will sell its steel, aluminum, coal, oil, gas, and know how to North Korea. And, the US gets in return, cheap North Korean labor (just like China). And Kim? He laughs happily to the bank, enjoys his god like status, keeps his repressive regime in place, keeps his nuclear technology for a rainy day and secretly calls Trump a chump.

  246. While we can remove things, we can't remove knowledge. They have the technology. That means they can rebuild, and quickly too. We must avoid causing that rainy day. No regime change. That means they gained their main point, and so now this is possible.

  247. Trump's supporters will not understand, or will just ignore, the nuances of this meeting. This was nothing more than a photo-op for Trump and he will be touting it as an achievement.

  248. I think Mr. Kristof misses the point- which is not east to see. Mr. Trump and his base do not necessarily care what happens on the Korean peninsula. Their "American First" agenda is only about the Homeland being safe and secure. Trump would be quite content to pull out every last American from South Korea and invite Mr. Kim to invade. "The Korean peninsula has finally been reunited, Mr. Kim points his missiles elsewhere" Everybody is happy.

  249. We can always expect such a reaction from liberal pundits in case of Trump and opposite from conservative pundits in case of Obama. The fact of the matter is that it was a major achievement for Trump and the world and for Kim. It is unrealistic to expect complete denuclearization of Korean peninsula in one sitting. A lot of trust building is necessary to achieve that. Stopping war exercise is an achievement for America because it saves a lot of money which can be used for the benefits of American people, a goal of Trump. It will also lead to confidence building. So, Nicholas, be patient.

  250. "Stopping war exercise is an achievement for America because it saves a lot of money which can be used for the benefits of American people" Dream on, it will be used for anything but.

  251. " saves a lot of money which can be used for the benefits of American people, a goal of Trump." That statement is laughable. Any money "saved" will simply be used by the DoD for other purposes, and thinking that benefiting the American people is a goal of Trump ignores his steady gutting of programs and organizations that really do help us.

  252. Please—the savings on military exercises probably won't even pay for this fake "summit meeting."

  253. I love Nicholas Kristof, and this is another thoughtful piece by him. However, I have more to add to it. I agree with the NYT commenter, that it was nothing to Trump to give up the war games with South Korea, this was one of his promises to his base. I'm not sure he lost anything he cares about, since what he actually won, was the taking over and dominating of the American and world press. He successfully made himself the center of attention. That he shredded our relations with our NATO allies, and praised won of the most brutal dictators in the world, is a small price to pay for so much attention. I do like another comment, that this is just a tempest in a teapot.  We are not out of danger, if Trump gets wind that he has been perceived as the weaker negotiator, in front of the whole world, he might get belligerent. Kudos to the president of South Korea for bringing this thawing about. An expert on NPR made the astute comment, that North Korea is subtly re-balancing their position in East Asia, moving slightly towards the west, and making themselves less reliant on China, the hungry elephant in the room. It is also important that Kim Jung-un has declared, his nuclear deterrent is in place, and he promises to his people he will improve the North Korean economy. So as long as we are patient David Lindsay Jr. is the author of "The Tay Son Rebellion, Historical Fiction of Eighteenth-century Vietnam," and blogs at and

  254. He has not "shredded" our relationship with our NATO allies.

  255. I agree, it is Kim who is playing the first violin, Trump is merely given the spotlight which he values way above the national interests.

  256. "I’m just not sure a leader should get credit for defusing a crisis that he himself created." I made the same point just yesterday. This was a mess of Trump's own making. I'm not going to thank him for mopping up the floor without an apology first. As of today, America is still at a net loss for interacting with North Korea. We always knew this was going happen though. Trump was there for a photo-op and some headlines reading "historic." That was his price for everything he just gave away. Maybe Trump didn't know Kim was taking him for a ride but it doesn't really matter. Trump is a cheap date and every dictator in the world seems to know it. I can only hope the real diplomats and deal makers can claw-back something useful from Kim's statements. I can't say I'm optimistic though. Trump's advisers are already pushing the expectations for results out past Trump's re-election. To me, that suggests political damage control with full knowledge of inevitable failure in North Korea. The consequences just won't be fully realized until later.

  257. "I only hope the real diplomats and deal makers" etc....too bad the State Department is on Trump's bad list. Only half the lights are on in the State Department and most diplomats have left or been fired. As Trump has said "I do not like diplomats". So, not sure that real diplomats (not Trump's toadies) can make a difference here. I fear that is wishful thinking. The "real diplomats" are not even there any more.

  258. So does this mean that Donald Trump won't insult Kim Jong-un any more? That will at least calm things down a bit. Mr. Kristof is right. Trump gave North Korea a one-on-one meeting the the President of the United States and at least a temporary halt of military exercises with South Korea. And North Korea gave us nothing. This is what Donald Trump calls a great deal?

  259. Trump reportedly refused to get briefed on US positions leading upto the summit. So it is not surprising that he believes he made a great deal by getting North Korea to make a vague commitment to denuclearize, when he didn't know that this is the fourth time they were doing so.

  260. Trump can’t plan more than one step ahead. He got his photo-op, which is all he wanted in the first place, and he’s given no thought to what the next step should be.

  261. The next step follows the one that preceded it, obviously. Just thinking about steps is the same as standing still. Some people just get up and let gravity guide the walking motion, others refuse to and sit wondering why their feet won’t move.

  262. Next step? A Trump Hotel in Pyongyang.

  263. It will be interesting to see the president's reaction when he learns the United States cannot unilaterally end the North Korean sanctions imposed by the U.N. Security Council. At least not as long as Great Britain and France hold veto power.

  264. The moment Trump tells China, "Hey, it's okay with me" then the sanctions are over.

  265. I'm as liberal as a liberal can be, but this column is the kind of nonsense that goes as "liberal" these days, undercuts credible criticism and allows the Trumps and Fox News to scream about lack of fairness from the "liberal" media. Did anyone in their right mind really expect Trump to walk out of an initial meeting with Kim with a 10 step plan to disarm North Korea? What could be more preposterous to expect or whose absence is then cited as the basis of criticism? It is great that Trump and Kim met and apparently created some positive waves. Without their meeting in a positive fashion, the steps Mr. Kristof demands would have been impossible. Now they are possible. That doesn't mean they'll happen. But without their meeting, they were unlikely to happen in the foreseeable future. Let us see what happens next. It will require administration officials other than Trump, who seemingly couldn't care less about detail other than with words used to criticize him. If there are any with sense and the courage to present Trump with details and plans that make sense for the world, something very good may happen. Remember Mr. Kristof, your years of lopsided "coverage" of Darfur, helped produce an outcome to devastate the country for generations to come. Let other perspectives and approaches have a chance, without imposing failed criteria from decades of failed approaches. I can't stand Trump. But I hope things work out on North Korea.

  266. I completely disagree with this writer. By declaring victory before he has attained anything, Trump has completely weakened the American position.

  267. So ... you admit that the only thing that Trump did different for the moment is to meet the North Korean leader upfront, and to agree to huge concessions without getting anything back yet, in other words to be what he himself in the past called "very weak" ... ? And you're saying that Trump taking the exact opposite stance of what he's been advising as a candidate, just MIGHT actually work and lead to historic breakthroughs? I understand that you want to hope that things will work out - we all do. But your comment doesn't refute any of Kristof's detailed criticism, and frankly, having an incompetent president do the opposite of what he himself told us to do isn't enough to make me confident that something might be going on here ... . I'm all for letting "other perspectives and approaches have a chance", I'm just afraid that there IS no SERIOUS (= fact-based) perspective nor approach here, and that it's all a mere PR stunt for two presidents who until now have never shown any real interest in competent governing ...

  268. Watch out for Bolton! He'll toss a monkey wrench in the works.

  269. I agree with Mr. Kristof that Trump was played by Kim, but I think we make the usual Trump-watcher's mistake in trying to explain Trump's behavior according a conventional framework. The Donald got his photo op summit and saturation press coverage. That's all he wanted. He had no other goals; he knows nothing about North Korea. Don't be surprised to see military exercises with South Korea to proceed anyway.

  270. Wow Downer Dan! Time for you to go back to bed and wake up with a Positive view! Photo op or not, this incredibly important meeting is a beginning. Some new beginnings to major changes in the world have started on less! Thankful to Trump for all the efforts and gone where no other American president has gone!

  271. It's all about the spin. Like the proverbial chess-playing pigeon, no matter the outcome, DT will be strutting around, declaring himself the greatest statesman ever, and many of his followers will be doing the same. Let's listen to what DT & his enablers say in the next few days, shall we? I could just about write the scripts myself.

  272. Trump has another goal. He wants a Nobel Prize. Why? Because his archenemy - Obama - got one.

  273. Even the U.S. concession is meaningless. We're 'halting' military exercises in the same way the NK would 'halt' nuclear testing, until they're not. Not only has nothing come out of this meeting but unless I'm missing something where's the follow up? Are more detailed negotiations scheduled or is this it? If I called meetings where little was accomplished and no reconvene was scheduled I'd probably get rated a 'needs improvement' on my annual performance review.

  274. Correct. And Trump’s, for many reasons, should read “Needs to be replaced”.

  275. “They were willing to de-nuke,” Trump crowed at his news conference after his meetings with Kim” It’s time for every country on the planet having a nuclear arsenal to have a summit and agree to denuclearize and work towards peace and the betterment of humanity; wouldn’t that be an accomplishment and provide security around the globe? The only problem is us……the U.S. will never concede to denuclearization and yet we pick and choose who should have these weapons. It’s OK for us to talk the talk but not OK to walk the walk. The ones being outfoxed are the innocents of the world who may someday succumb to the horrific use of these weapons. These weapons are not a deterrent to war but a pathway to Armageddon; it’s only a matter of time.

  276. First a thank you to Mr. Moon. A voice of reason in an otherwise unreasonable situation. Also a thank you to Canada, France Germany, the United Kingdom, Japan and Italy for sticking to the signing of the Communique. As usual, Trump never honors his word and manages to embarrass the U.S. every chance he gets. Kim is not only talented. He is also smart, well-educated, shrewd and now he is recognized on the world stage, not as a dictator but as a world leader. Good work Trump, Bolton and Pompeo. We can take a sigh of relief that war is not eminent. Not until Trump decides to start blasting Kim again. Two leaders who are irrational and impulsive is not what we need to negotiate our safety or that of the rest of the world. That said, I am now wondering what the next distraction will be from the Trump Administration to take our eyes off the Mueller investigation. After all, it seems as if this is Trump's true intent. To divert the American Public's attention from the Russia investigation. He should get an Academy Award for his portrayal of "poor me, everybody is picking on me".

  277. While Trump and Kim Jong-un had their moment in the spotlight, Putin was in China meeting with President Xi. I wonder what they were talking about? China just started talking about lifting North Korean sanctions. So while the photos show two leaders who got what they needed in terms of media/propaganda points, there are many other players in this summit who didn't make the photo op. The fact that peace is now a thought and goal that have been agreed to is a good thing. In the months and years ahead, the negotiations will be complex and reflect the desires of not only Trump/America and Kim Jong-un/North Korea but South Korea. Japan. China and Russia. The optics were ratings Gold for sure. Now comes the hard part.

  278. A very sober and realistic post. The knuckleheads who want to bash Trump for breathing, including Kristof, are probably among the crew that are hoping for a gigantic recession and stock market crash in order to rid themselves of their obsessive ad hominem hatred of the POTUS. As Elizabeth suggests, can't we just take a breath here and hope for something positive to happen? Or take the other side and hope it all fails so that Bernie or Hillary can win in 2020? What do NYT readers really want?

  279. Given that Trump punted the opportunity presented, I don’t know why the world would continue the economic sanctions against NK. If the sanctions aren’t going to be parleyed into denuclearization, they have no effect beyond increasing the suffering of the NK people. So its possible the pressure on NK will end soon and with it, any chance of a do-over.

  280. This column is a bit premature. The sanctions are still in place, and it was those that brought Kim to the meeting. Whether the joint US/South Korea war games are actually as huge as Kristoff suggests is probably as much as guess to him as to me. Certainly the South got some comfort from them, but their importance in the overall security arrangement is questionable. Now the next moves are up to Kim, and we'll see if they are substantial.

  281. I'm not at all surprised by anything Trump claims to have accomplished here, but I am curious and awaiting what Pompeo has to say as well as his advisors about this. As pointed out in this article, it's clear there's no substance from NK on this new agreement. Then again, Trump can head home and decide to do an about face on Twitter, which seems to be his only safe place for dictating terms and making decisions.

  282. Nick, sometimes you don't have to "win" every step in a series of negotiations. It's not so important to give up less than the other party at stage 1 (particularly when you can reinstate what you've given up, joint military exercises) - it's most important to give up a reasonable amount by the end of the process to reach the desired end goal. We won't know how this turns out for quite some time yet. We should be happy at this point that the process has begun, and hopeful that progress will be regular and "real".

  283. The process has begun many a time in the past so this stage is nothing new except what Trump gave away for free.

  284. He didn't give anything away, angel98. He suspended military exercises. They can be reinstated at the drop of a hat. Nothing went to North Korea (such as money, removal of trade restrictions, etc.).

  285. Suspending the exercises is giving away something for free, as is going Kim a one-on-one meeting with the U.S. president.

  286. Trump does seem "snookered". But consider the possibility that he wants to be allies of Putin and Xi. This is his path to that alliance. Perhaps it was us - the American people - who were snookered.

  287. Perhaps????

  288. This was my first thought!!! Putin is a "no brainer" and Xi -- well, that huge investment in Indonesia that benefits trump sticks out like a sore thumb. Trump jumps on helping ZTE -- a sanctioned national security threat China company -- even tries to have it written into the Defense bill...just saying. The timing is suspect being right before Midterms. Nothing stopping Putin and Xi from telling Kimmy to play nice with trump....makes a good photo op for the republicans....

  289. Last place 1 should expect to find an objective, informative analysis of the tete a tete between 2 heads of state like Trump and Kim Jong Un is in the opinion pages of the Times. Kristof and his colleagues have been dead set against the President since he started his campaign in 2015, so, like the boy who cried wolf once too often, there is a credibility gap of enormous proportions. Admire Kristof for his derrng do, willingness to go to perilous places other journos would fear to set foot in, but am disappointed by his lack of follow up. If 1 visits i an almost hopelessly poor environment and seek international help for its inhabitants, like Bangui in C.A.R. or Darfur in Sudan, would it not be the logical , humane thing to do to sponsor a family,from there, perhaps also a starving pet to set an example for others, like lighting a candle in the darkness. We can't solve ALL the world's problems, but 1 can, if 1 has the means, make 1 family's future, 1 starving pet's future better.Thus far, NK's tangible acts of philanthropy, to my knowledge, add up to zero. Trump was not gamed by UN. All that remains to be seen. At the very least, N. Korea has had its horizons broadened,and its people will be the beneficiaries. If anyone deserves the Nobel Prize, it is not Obama, who had his team shamelessly lobby for it in Stockholm after barely assuming office, but Trump, but I believe he is too self effacing to ask his aides to campaign for it.

  290. "...too self effacing (sic)…" LOVE the sarcasm (you were being sarcastic, right?). Oh, and his aides HAVE been campaigning for it! I didn't like it when Obama got the Nobel Prize, thinking it was a bit "premature," if anything, but in Trump's case it is not only premature, but un-earned at this point. Having said all that, I am truly hoping that he and his administration do the necessary follow-up, and are successful, so that we can happily applaud his Prize.

  291. Right on the money, Mr. Kristoff. The author of The Art of the Deal was artless in this negotiation. What did we actually gain? Nothing, it seems. What did North Korea gain? Everything. Especially troubling was Trump’s comment about the “special bond” he’s formed with Kim. This recalls Bush’s statement that he looked into Putin’s soul and realized he could work with him. That one didn’t turn out too well.

  292. A characteristic Trump business negotiation: (1) Make a bad deal; then (2) Sue. A likely Trump diplomatic negotiation: (1) Make a bad deal; then (2) Sorry, can't sue.

  293. Sadly, a Trump-Kim deal is a victory for dictatorships, a weakening of freedom, a loss for the US global standing, and a questionable victory for Trump and world peace.

  294. Indeed, Trump’s announcement that the US suspend military exercises with South Korea has taken Seoul and US forces in the region by surprise, making Shinzo Abe nervous, and Xi Jinping happy. Trump said the “war games” were very costly and “very provocative”. The suspension represents a major concession, something his predecessors rejected as non-negotiable on the grounds that the exercises are a key element of its military alliance with Seoul, and of maintaining a deterrent against Pyongyang. He accepted North Korea’s intention “to work toward complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula”, without demanding any details, because he didn’t want to spoil the ambiance. In the past Kim’s father interpreted it as being an open-ended, gradual process. But Trump added: “I just feel very strongly – my instincts, my ability, my talent – that they want to make a deal.” He wouldn’t have had to declare bankcruptcy for at least four times had he got the right gut feeling.

  295. He was asked about all of this in the press conference that followed. He assured the press that it was either all in there it will be coming very soon.

  296. And Trump is always as good as his word. Right?

  297. Good column Mr. Kristof. As Jennifer Rubin aptly pointed out a few days ago: "Here is a man declaring his gullibility and waiting to be snookered with a few smiles, some stomach-turning flattery and many empty promises from a calculating adversary. Trump seems not to know that the first meeting between the U.S. president and the dictator of North Korea is not an amazing achievement for the United States; it’s a huge win for Pyongyang." Yep, Trump got snookered alright. By conceding to suspending military exercises, no mention of human rights, let alone no negotiating the monitoring of NK's nuclear program, Trump handed Kim Jong-un everything he wanted on a silver platter. Art of the deal alright, for Kim Jong-Un.

  298. You say “it’s bewildering how much Trump gave and how little he got.” It’s not bewildering at all when you consider that Trump’s motivation is completely about how he is perceived. He is 100% focused on how he looks on TV. The details of any treaty, negotiations, address of human rights abuses, national security, etc. do not interest him. He got 100% of what he wanted: internationally broadcast video of him shaking hands with the North Korean dictator.

  299. Putin must be delighted that the US is going to suspends military exercises with South Korea, trump made Vlad very happy yesterday. I can hear a loud murmuring sound coming from South Korea, I can't quite understand what they are saying but it sounds like Alarmed or alarming. And there's something about being "Stabbed in the Back!" And how will trump attempt to turn a lemon into lemonade? Once the error is made obvious to trump, trump will declare that he gave away security for South Korea - at South Korea's expense - so he could get even greater concessions from North Korea. The best. The greatest. The most secure! Russia is going to be so happy.

  300. I am no longer sure why we do need joint exercises with South Korea. If there ever was another war the nuclear button would be hit in a nanosecond, by both sides. There will never be a conventional war again in that area. Second if you put yourself in Kim’s shoes, those exercises are provocative to his military people. You know, the same folks who could take over the country if they wanted to. To me it was a very small concession to make. Please also remember that in North Korea, Kim has to watch his back, too. This will appear to be a huge concession to his people, however the military folks on both sides know that it is only symbolic. I’m no Trump fan but it was a smart move on Trump’s part.

  301. Only is you accept the premise that a war would begin with nukes. Oh course, with Trump and Kim that’s always a possibility. But it’s far less likely than conventional skirmishes. You also have to believe that Trump got us something in return. He did not. Kim merely reasserted NK’s “commitment” to consider denuclearization, which has been NK policy for 20 years. The only new accomplishment was the image of the POTUS shaking hands with a murderous dictator. Set against that photo of Trump and our closest allies glaring at each other at G7, it’s a very troubling picture.

  302. trump says that he can assess Kim and within a few seconds can tell us if he will be able to work with him. This reminds me of GW Bush's assessment of Putin in 2001: "I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy. We had a very good dialogue. I was able to get a sense of his soul; a man deeply committed to his country and the best interests of his country." How did that work out, my Republican friends?

  303. It worked out GREAT for the Republicans!

  304. I'd say Republicans are quite happy with how that worked out.

  305. While I do approve of less tension in this area of the world, Trump again dominates the news because of his actions. Other people of the world also suffer intensely awful conditions because of far right governments. One only has to mention Gaza, the West Bank, children being separated from parents, those who grieve gun violence, and the list could go on so very long. Suffering is suffering no matter where it is. Forty five does not do us honorably in this world, or in our country.

  306. The assumption this peace process is the same as those implemented by past administrations misunderstands the two men involved. Trump wants the glory of a nuclear deal with North Korea that no one else achieved and to save money on defense of South Korea. Kim wants peace guarantees for his nation and regime, and is willing to trade nuclear weapons to get it. Trump and Kim are both used to getting what they want, have total control within their regimes, and pay no attention to criticism.. That should be enough to overcome the inevitable stumbling blocks on the details of the process. This is the biggest advance in global peace since the fall of the Berlin Wall.

  307. Nick, you're getting way ahead of yourself. There wasn't going to be a detailed plan coming out of this initial meeting. What they have is a framework for more negotiations. As Trump said, in six months they'll either have a deal or they won't, and if they don't, sanctions and wargames go on as usual. I've never liked Trump's public persona, but I give the man credit for some intelligence. He didn't get snookered, not yet anyway. Your instant analysis is about as credible as Paul Krugman's post-election one was. Not. At. All.

  308. Trump promised much more. In fact he had a list of preconditions before starting the talks. All those preconditions have disappeared. The old dotard has always been a terrible negotiator, 6 bankruptcies. First set: Little Rocket Man 6 The Old Dotard 0

  309. We know what Trump has given away without getting anything in return. That is the definition of "snookered".

  310. In diplomacy you have a limited amount of leverage points. In other words you give up X so that you can get Y. Trump gave up A, B, C and D and got nothing in return. That means he doesn't have those things to bargain with in the future. Yes, he can go back on his promises but he's already lost ground. NOBODY does diplomacy the way Trump is...It's idiotic...

  311. Even if Trump manages to pull off an agreement that is actually worth something, how can we trust that he won't tear it up the next day? Trump has proven to be completely untrustworthy. A deal with him isn't worth the paper it is written on. If Kim Jong-un is really a good negotiator, he will insist on compliance clauses that hold the US to account. I am afraid with Trump, it is now the US that we all need to be sceptical of.

  312. As was Dubya with North Korea, and Obama with Libya. It is the US, not just Trump, and yes that is the biggest hurdle to overcome to make a deal.

  313. Trump just gave away the store to a murderer and despot, and in the process further insulted our allies. Without even consulting the South Korean president, he cancelled joint military exercises that not only strengthen our preparedness but protect crucial trade routes in the South China Seas. These are not "war games," but essential traditions that signal our strength and willingness to protect our and our allies' economic interests. Our power and standing in the world are critical to our economic security and development, which is as much about making our allies feel safe as about hard cash. But to Trump, everything is about hard cash — even the presidency. And it will be ruinous for us, and ultimately for world peace.

  314. watch South Korea and Japan trembling ! there is no guarantee what Trump would do to them , allies or not, as long as it makes trump look good.

  315. He did not insult the South Korean President, he did exactly what was wanted of him.

  316. Our best hope for a next act is that Trump will do the same thing with Iran. He'll turn it into a giant photo op, sign back up to the Iran deal, and declare that he has "fixed" it with a paragraph or two from the photo op's letter. We would be much better off. That does not make Trump a diplomat, or give him any great bragging rights, but we should still encourage it and cheer the doing of it. That is where we are on North Korea, and it is better than it was.

  317. That will not happen and the reason is straightforward: Netanyahu will not allow it and he is one of the few foreign friends Trump still has.

  318. Mark: Are the folks in the PDRK better off? Or is the fact that they're citizens of a repressive, totalitarian regime deprived of access to social media or to news of the world outside them suddenly of no interest to us? Trump's only concern is Trump- his "victory" here entails the loss of America's principles with no material gain for our country or Kim's subjects.

  319. serban -- While you have a point, consider another -- What friend has Trump not betrayed freely?