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Trump’s appeasement of North Korea is failing

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DENVER – Having met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un three times — all to great fanfare — U.S. President Donald Trump may still believe that denuclearization is underway in the Hermit Kingdom. If so, he is probably the only one who does, given North Korea’s frequent missile tests and upgrades to its weapons.

It is anyone’s guess what the Trump administration’s North Korea policy will look like in a year, but for now, both sides seem to have what they want. Trump has wrangled a loose stalemate that could hold through the November 2020 U.S. presidential election, and Kim has secured a suspension of U.S.-South Korean military exercises in exchange for freezing his nuclear tests.

The summits with Kim never should have led to the current “freeze for freeze” arrangement, which weakens the U.S.-South Korea alliance. Yet when first meeting Kim in Singapore in June 2018, Trump decided simply to follow his instincts. He has been taking U.S. policy on North Korea in the wrong direction ever since.

Thinking like a New York real estate developer, Trump assumed that North Korea wanted economic relief. But he also listened carefully to Kim’s explanation of why North Korea pursued nuclear weapons in the first place: to deter a supposedly hostile United States from attacking it. If Trump found this argument plausible, that may be because his own national security adviser,........

© The Japan Times