First, Trump threatened North Korea with annihilation; now he is presenting himself as a peacemaker.
America’s top diplomat was on a delicate mission when the president publicly called him off. “I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful secretary of state, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man,” tweeted Donald Trump. The American president had a low opinion of talks with Kim Jong Un, the North Korean ruler. Indeed, he threatened the “murderous regime” in Pyongyang with an apocalypse of “fire and fury” if it dared to fire a rocket at American territory. That was last fall.
In the meantime, the “wonderful secretary of state” threw in the towel in frustration. His successor, Mike Pompeo, however, returned from North Korea early Thursday with three freed U.S. prisoners. At 3 a.m., Trump gave the group a triumphant reception at Andrews Air Force Base. In the floodlights before a giant U.S. flag hanging from a fire truck ladder, the president raved, “We want to thank Kim Jong Un, who really was excellent.”
From the “short and fat” supporter of terror to the model statesman, the change in the picture of Kim in presidential rhetoric is breathtaking. The two former archenemies now want to meet on June 12 in Singapore. “We will both try to make it a very special moment for World Peace,” Trump announced. For days he has been beating the drum that “this is a big thing.”*
It is quite apparent that Trump has flipped the switch in the matter of North Korea. After a phase of the wildest threats, he now classifies Kim’s readiness to talk as a great success.
And the fact that the ruler in Pyongyang freed three American citizens who were imprisoned in North Korea for over a year because of alleged espionage before the planned summit as well was “a wonderful thing,” the U.S. president raved. The one-time reality TV star sees a chance to cover up his numerous domestic scandals with a gigantic media production.
“America is respected again,” Trump shouted to a jubilant crowd in the small town of Elkhart in Northern Indiana on Thursday evening. The president enjoyed a reception with 7,300 supporters in a large school auditorium. Pleased, he presented his alleged foreign policy record of success: the upcoming summit with North Korea, the withdrawal from the Iran deal and the relocation of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. His fans applauded.
US Seems Unreliable
It doesn’t occur to them that the unilateral withdrawal from the nuclear deal might fuel strong misgivings by the North Korean leadership about how reliable the U.S. is in a similar deal about its own nuclear weapons. Like the president, they believe the example of North Korea shows that maximum pressure in foreign policy brings the greatest success. “I think it’s going to be a very big success,” Trump announced in Indiana one month before the summit in Singapore. U.S. experts stipulate that in any case, the statement applies to Kim Jong Un, who might classify a handshake with the president as official recognition of North Korea as a nuclear power. For Trump, the risk of returning without a credible result in the end is disparately greater. Yet self-doubt is not among the prominent traits of the president who is already dreaming of his place in the history books.
A group of 18 Republican representatives have already seriously recommended the self-professed “great dealmaker” for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019, for example. “Look at what is going on with North Korea,” Rudy Giuliani told the right-wing Fox TV network. “I told the president, ‘You're going to get the Nobel Peace Prize.’” Trump is highly receptive to such flattery. When a reporter asked him about a possible award, he answered, “Everyone thinks so, but I would never say it.”
*Editor’s note: Although accurately translated, this specific remark could not be independently verified.