Marc Thiessen’s spin on Trump’s INF Treaty blunder is comically bad:
But Trump’s withdrawal may also be designed for another purpose. It sends a subtle but unmistakable message to North Korea: If you refuse to denuclearize, we can now surround your country with short- and medium-range missiles that will allow us to strike your regime without warning.
If withdrawing from the INF Treaty is meant to send North Korea such a message, we have to assume that Bolton is sending it in the hopes of sabotaging all negotiations with North Korea. Bolton hates all arms control agreements, and if he can prevent one from being reached with North Korea by destroying an existing one that is just an added bonus for him. There is no way that leaving the INF Treaty makes successful negotiations with North Korea more likely. Scrapping one of the few remaining arms control treaties tells North Korea that the Trump administration can’t be trusted to honor even a long-established, successful diplomatic agreement ratified by the Senate by an overwhelming margin (93-5). The possibility that the U.S. could build even more nuclear weapons and base more of them within range of North Korea is a good way to make sure that they refuse to make any concessions. Even if the U.S. limited such a buildup to conventional missiles, this would hardly be consistent with an end to the “hostile policy” that North Korea wants.
Insofar as North Korea’s government actually desires denuclearization as a long-term goal, their definition of denuclearization also applies to the U.S. and its allies. Walking away from the INF Treaty proves to North Korea that the administration has no intention of doing anything of the kind. On the contrary, Trump and his officials are giving every indication that they intend to pursue a massive buildup of nuclear weapons, and that is certain to make North Korea retain their current arsenal and it will probably also cause them to add to it. It isn’t possible to advance the cause of arms control in one place while delivering fatal blows to it in another. The Trump administration’s North Korea policy was already divorced from reality, and if they think that quitting the INF Treaty will make North Korea more inclined to make concessions they are more delusional than we thought.