The Trump administration’s extreme sensitivity about the brevity and lack of specifics in the joint agreement signed in Singapore by the president and his North Korean counterpart – amid Trump’s premature claims that North Korea is no longer a nuclear threat – was on full display at a post-summit press conference in Seoul, South Korea.
America’s chief diplomat, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo – who has stated that it will be his job to fill in the details on the sketchy one and a half page agreement – blew up when a reporter dared to ask him why the agreement never mentions how North Korea’s latest of many past promises to denuclearize will be verified.
“I suppose we could argue semantics, but let me assure you it’s in the document,” Pompeo told the reporter, even though there is no specific language about verification.
“I am confident they understand what we’re prepared to do,” continued Pompeo, “the handful of things that we’re likely not prepared to do.”
Pompeo insisted that the North Koreans understand what has to be done.
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Mike Pompeo defends Trump's North Korea summit, says he hopes North Korea will take major steps toward dismantling its nuclear weapons program by the end of Trump’s first term https://t.co/vkte6FAVUz
— Axios (@axios) June 13, 2018
He said even though North Korean media have emphasized the gains from the talks – most notably suspension of war games involving the U.S. and South Korea – and not denuclearization and certainly not the need for verification, they would anyway…because he said so.
“I am equally confident that they understand there will be in-depth verification.”
Then Pompeo let loose a torrent of abuse at the reporter for even asking the question many people in America are asking: how the promises made in Singapore will be checked since there is a long history of North Korea making and breaking similar promises.
“I find the question insulting and ridiculous and frankly ludicrous,” ranted Pompeo.
“I just have to be honest with you,” the Secretary of State said, his anger visible, “it’s a game, it’s a game, and one ought not play games with serious matters like this.”
Far from being “a game” of gotcha, the reporter was raising a very serious and important question that is troubling not only Trump critics but even some Republicans, who don’t agree with the president’s assessment that Kim Jong-Un is a great guy who can be trusted.
The Latest: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says he's taking the lead on U.S. talks with North Korea and that he expects detailed talks to resume next week. https://t.co/uA6AEjRo7F
— The Associated Press (@AP) June 13, 2018
Senator John Kennedy, a Louisiana Republican, and loyal Trump supporter said out loud on Tuesday what a lot of others are thinking, and what is at the heart of the implication in that reporter’s question.
“It’s important that we don’t lose sight of the fact that Kim Jong-un is a butcher and he is a butcher of his own people,” said Sen. Kennedy.
“Trying to reason with someone like that is like trying to hand feed a shark,” continued Kennedy. “Doesn’t mean you can’t do it, but you’ve got to do it very, very carefully.”
What that means is you can’t just assume like Pompeo that the vague promises in a brief document created on the spur of the moment really guarantee important things like true denuclearization and independent verification will take place in the near term.
You especially can’t assume those key things when dealing with a totalitarian regime that has made similar promises again and again over the years to other Amerian president and then broken every single one of those promises.
Pompeo doesn’t seem to have a very diplomatic temperament or the skills to deal with the kind of free press that is not allowed to exist in North Korea.
That does not bode well for the future fulfillment of Trump’s grand promises that he has tied the nuclear tail of the North Korean tiger once and for all.
Or that Pompeo is the right person with the right skills to ensure promises are kept.