Kim Jong-un recently announced a moratorium on nuclear weapons and missile testing and the closure of a nuclear test site. That is welcome news and could form the basis for an agreement limiting North Korea’s arsenal, but the reason Kim gave for this decision was that North Korea’s nuclear arsenal did not need additional testing. That strongly suggests that North Korea has no intention of giving up the nuclear weapons that it has built at significant cost:
Mr. Kim made no mention in his latest remarks of dismantling the nuclear weapons and long-range missiles North Korea has already built. On the contrary, he suggested he was going to keep them.
The president this morning keeps repeating the misunderstanding (fantasy?) that North Korea has already agreed to give them up:
Sleepy Eyes Chuck Todd of Fake News NBC just stated that we have given up so much in our negotiations with North Korea, and they have given up nothing. Wow, we haven’t given up anything & they have agreed to denuclearization (so great for World), site closure, & no more testing!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 22, 2018
At best, it is not constructive to be keeping score in public before the meeting even happens. Even if it were true that the U.S. has given up nothing and North Korea has made all the concessions, it would make it harder to conclude an agreement by pointing this out for all to see. This statement shows how oblivious Trump and his advisers remain to the pitfalls of approaching the meeting with unrealistic expectations. North Korea doesn’t appear to have any interest in giving up its nuclear weapons, and any concessions it does make will come at a price. Kim is acting like the leader of a nuclear-armed state who is preparing to negotiate an arms control agreement with an equal, and Trump thinks that Kim has already agreed to surrender. Taken together with the added demands that the U.S. and Japan just made, this is not a good combination.