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Fecteau: Shaking Hands with the Devil

Wednesday, June 13, 2018


Kim Jong Un

With the announcement the U.S. was withdrawing from the Iran Nuclear deal, President Donald Trump set the bar particularly high for the terms of the nuclear summit in Singapore with North Korean autocrat Kim Jong Un. The results were very positive – for North Korea.   

After the two leaders exchanged pleasantries, Kim and Trump signed a short, vague agreement saying North Korea “commits to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.” In addition, North Korea will also return the remains of deceased service members (similar promises were made in the past). Trump did say he thought Kim would keep his word, and called the U.S.’s relationship with North Korea “special” (that is a good word for it).

Unlike the Iran Nuclear deal, this agreement did not contain any specifics or even milestones. It certainly, did not list the steps North Korea would take toward denuclearization. The agreement did include major concessions from the United States. Trump agreed to suspend military exercises with South Korea while giving North Korea security guarantees. In other words, North Korea promised to keep its vague promise, and Trump will cease conducting critical military operations with its primary defense partner in the region, South Korea.

Considering its past, how can Trump trust the North Korean government? Its ruler is the perfect fit for a villain in a James Bond flick. Kim is responsible for starving his own people, and building monuments to his greatness. Kim’s North Korean government is responsible for egregious actions in violation of international law such as assassinations, torture, and running gulags. All these North Korea simply denies despite the numerous evidence such as witnesses, and satellite imagery.

The North Korean government has been known to renege on their promises in the past. It signed similar deals to this recent summit in 1994 and 2000 (however, the current Kim wasn’t in power). After seeing the toppling of strongman Muammar Qaddafi in Libya and despot Saddam Hussein in Iraq (both of whom did give up their respective nuclear weapon programs), North Korea has little incentive to give up its nuclear program, but every incentive to lie to simply buy time.

After watching this surreal summit unfold, it is apparent Trump is a showman. He built up the audience for an enormous spectacle with great ratings, yet little results. All U.S. citizens should wish the North Korean government keeps its promises; with its checkered past, is that even possible? Trump was essentially shaking hands with the devil and asking him to keep his word.


Matt Fecteau ([email protected]) of Pawtucket, Rhode Island is a graduate of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and an Iraq War veteran.


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