Thursday, July 12, 2018
The papers say the president of the United States made some sort of major announcement this week. But for all the commotion surrounding the Supreme Court pick (well-deserved commotion is still commotion), let's not skip over some other news. Once again, it started with a presidential tweet:
"I have confidence that Kim Jong Un will honor the contract we signed & even more importantly, our handshake. We agreed to the denuclearization of North Korea. China, on the other hand, may be exerting negative pressure on a deal because of our posture on Chinese Trade--Hope Not!"
The president just admitted another problem with his tariff war, but that's another editorial.
This news, or at least this tweet, comes as North Korea is going ballistic again. Thankfully, not literally this time. Its government and media, but we repeat ourselves, issued pessimistic statements over the weekend following Visit No. 3 by this country's secretary of state.
After the new(ish) secretary, Mike Pompeo, finished up some meetings in Pyongyang, the NorKons accused the Americans of acting "gangster-like." That could mean any number of things. It could mean that Secretary Pompeo was deadly serious. Or it could mean that he made them an offer they really shouldn't refuse. Or it could mean that Kim Jong Un gave somebody on his staff a strange look, and 90 of his henchmen huddled together to figure out what it meant.
Doubtless, officials working for Chairman Kim will demand unconditional aid from the world in general and the United States in particular before taking baby steps toward dismantling any one missile or facility. Most observers knew that going in. Most observers would say that's the wrong way to go now.
Bullying, promising, renegging . . . . That's the way this regime, now passed down from one Kim generation to the next to the next, has always operated. In the past, the North has demanded shipments of food (lots of food, tons of food) plus trade concessions and fertilizer and heating oil and fuel and a generous helping of servility with a side order of docile acquiescence. Then promised something in return. In preparation to voiding said promise.
But the president of the United States sounds optimistic. Which gives him at least one thing in common with his predecessors. They were all optimistic, too, whenever the North made promises. But it hasn't even been a month since the Trump-Kim summit, and already North Korea's leadership is trying to pick a fight.
What makes it all the more frightening is a theory we've always had about bullies: They can't push kids around on the playground and take their milk money forever. Eventually the bully will have to knock somebody down to prove his point. That thought keeps us up at night.
How respond this time? Carefully. But without encouraging future tests of the world's collective will. (Secretary Pompeo said if what the NorKons heard at the negotiating table was gangster-like, then the whole world is a gangster.) And without allowing Pyongyang to do to this adminstration what it's done to the last three.
That is, American negotiators should make sure the regime takes real steps before lifting certain sanctions or freeing frozen money. Let the bullies know that the game won't be played by their rules any longer.
Kipling, who knew the free world would always be tested, understood the problem. And his admonition about what not to do about it still holds:
And that is called paying
But we've proved it again and again,
That if once you have paid him
You never get rid of the Dane.
By now this dance has become a tradition. Like a dance at a family gathering, namely a funeral.
Whatever the American delegation to any future talks is allowed to offer, one thing remains clear: Trust, but veri--
Never mind that. Don't trust. The North Koreans have proven, dozens of times over the years, that the rest of the world can only believe what they do, not what they say. Mr. President, Mr. Secretary . . . good luck.
Editorial on 07/12/2018
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