One of Kim’s motives for personally grooming Trump is to preserve the nuclear status quo. Kim declared on November 2017 that his country had completed the work needed to become a nuclear power, citing a successful test-firing of an intercontinental ballistic missile that can deliver a nuclear device to the US mainland. Trump is playing into Kim’s hands if their bromance only helps the North hold on to its nuclear weapons.
This does not bode well for disarming the Pyongyang regime, which is believed to have tens of nuclear weapons and a massive – biochemical arsenal as well.
the two of them now take North Korea’s missile testing for granted.
In other words, thanks partly to his bromance with Trump, Kim is able to hold on to his nuclear weapons and has no qualms about continuing to improve missile technologies. South Korean officials say the missiles North Korea tested this year include new types that are harder to intercept.
Another benefit Kim is drawing from his bond with the US president is that, unlike his forbears, he can live without fear of a US preemptive attack as long as the peace mood continues. Kim must be well aware that Bill Clinton planned to make a precision strike on the North’s key nuclear facilities in Yongbyon in 1994 during the first nuclear crisis, which started with Pyongyang’s withdrawal from the Non- proliferation Treaty the previous year. The plan was aborted due to opposition from then South Korean President Kim Young-sam.
Elsewhere, Kim’s bromance with Trump helps boost the young dictator’s political and personal profile at home and abroad. His grandfather, the North’s founder Kim Il-sung, and his father Kim Jong-il were notoriously aloof. Overseas trips were rare, except to China and Russia, and they even kept their wives out of the public eye.
The Swiss-educated junior Kim is breaking that mold, using his relationships with Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in to earn him and his country international exposure. The series of summit meetings Kim has had with Trump, Moon, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin have put him and his wife Ri Sol-ju in the global limelight.
Through such high-profile events, Kim has avoided the image created by his father and grandfather: one of the chieftains of an isolated rogue state. Instead, he has presented himself to his people and the international community as a legitimate leader of a normal country willing to engage the outside world. The North Korean issuance of postage stamps depicting Kim and Trump standing together at the inter-Korean border reflects Kim’s wish to be seen as an equal negotiating partner with the leader of the most powerful country in the world.
For his part, Trump needs his bromance with Kim to tout his self-proclaimed success in taming one of the world’s most troublesome regimes and preventing a potential nuclear war. He often claims this as something none of his predecessors, including Barack Obama, were able to achieve.
But the reality is that Trump’s bellicose rhetoric caused much of the fear of nuclear war in the first place, and the bond that has been developing since the “handshake of the century” in Singapore more than a year ago has done little to dismantle the North’s nuclear facilities and the nuclear arsenal it has already built.
One more reason Trump started his bromance with Kim is that it comes in tune with his “America First” policy with respect to South Korea. He uses his personal relationship with Kim to justifying his decision to cancel or scale down joint military exercises with South Korea, which he recently called a waste of American taxpayers’ money.
Since the first nuclear crisis in 1993, North Korea has deceived and snubbed the world time and again, and elevated its nuclear and missile capabilities. By now the international community, not least the president of the United States, should not wise to this.
But given what we have witnessed since the landmark meeting between Kim and Trump in Singapore, another one in Hanoi last February and the showy get-together in the demilitarised zone in June, the prospects of Trump coming to his senses do not seem bright. The Kim-Trump bromance may well satisfy the political goals of the two men, even to the detriment of their countries and the wider world.
Perhaps instead of reason and rational argument, we need to find another way to distract Trump from his newfound love, the dangers of which are clear to everyone but him._____
The writer is the chief editorial writer of The Korea Herald in South Korea.
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