Colorado Editorials

The Colorado Springs Gazette: Trump attempts friendship with North Korea

Author: The Colorado Springs Gazette Editorial Board - June 15, 2018 - Updated: June 15, 2018

Skeptics claim President Donald Trump fell for a wink and a smile, achieving little in his summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un.

Let’s hope results prove them wrong.

The old illogical guarantees on paper, making America the victor spiking the ball, don’t cause meaningful results. Dictators don’t give up bombs for nothing in return. We’ve tried that, to no avail, with North Korea and others.

By meeting with Kim, and sharing a few simple visions, Trump locked the United States and North Korea into nothing. Instead, he initiated a relationship and a vision. A video showed Kim how his country’s future could look.

It may glean better sustainable results, for both countries, than some tit-for-tat contract the weaker party hates. It represents the first phase of a long-term strategy of negotiations, in which each country might establish mutual trust through a series of promises kept.

Kim builds nuclear weapons to improve his plight, and will abandon them only for an outcome that furthers that goal.

A millennial, Kim defends an official state ideology known as “juche” — not a communist, expansionist agenda of the old Cold War. He was five years old when the Berlin Wall came down.

A Sino-Korean word, juche means “independence.” Owen Miller, who lectures in Korean history and culture at London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, tells Newsweek North Korea’s “leader doctrine” holds the Kim dynasty as infallible, quasi-divine beings. Each ruler lives to ensure the country’s independence.

Kim Jong Un’s grandfather, Kim II-Sung, refined the juche doctrine in response to what Miller calls “a sense of injured pride, going back decades and much further, hundreds of years under Chinese control. He is saying North Korea is going to be an independent nation in the world, independent of other nations.”

“Independent” is a relative concept. No nation stands fully independent of others. Kim Jong Un wants a first-world economy, which requires good friends.

Kim’s childlike fascination with American celebrity reveals a materialism we did not see in his father or grandfather. The flashy appearance and antics of Dennis Rodman famously amuse and entertain him. Trump’s limousine enamors him. Kim probably enjoys Trump’s showboat style, for the same reason he likes the retired bad boy of the NBA. Culturally, he seems to prefer the United States over China.

Our country should seek the recipe for a long-term, peaceful alliance with North Korea based on what its young leader values. Though we cannot tolerate aggression toward others, we can support peace, independence, and material gain.

In coming months, proof of denuclearization can buy North Korea a level of security only the United States can provide. For Kim, we may be the least-bad option for a 21st century alliance of culture, economy, and national defense. If we close ourselves to this possibility, the world will never know.

“President Trump committed to provide security guarantees,” the statement says, “and Chairman Kim Jong Un reaffirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”

“Complete denuclearization.” Not a squishy phrase. The promise ties directly to a softer U.S. commitment of ill-defined “security guarantees,” and an easily revocable agreement to stop joint military exercises with South Korea.

The United States holds all the cards here, giving up nothing long-term without denuclearization by Kim.

North Korea has every reason to fulfill its promise.

By doing so, the country enhances independence from Russia and China, with security provided by the world’s greatest super power. By putting fewer resources into militarization, North Korea can invest more in infrastructure and economic development. It can prosper like American allies.

The agreement gives Kim Jong Un an opportunity to succeed, should he so choose. It allows him to benefit from his bombs. The option of deploying the weapons spells certain self-destruction, so he should get what he can by melting them down. Trump made this clear, on multiple occasions, before embarking on friendship.

“Rocket man is on a suicide mission,” Trump said last September at the United Nations. “The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.”

The threat has Kim at the table, pledging to disarm in return for a better life. Maybe he genuinely wants peace, independence, and prosperity.

“Peace is worth the effort,” Trump said after meeting.

The joint statement, built on strength, sounds like better living through common sense and hope for the future. If so, count on it to work.

The Colorado Springs Gazette Editorial Board