The Real Reason Trump became the first U.S. President to set foot in North Korea

by | Jun 30, 2019 |

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Showing determination and resolve, President Donald Trump on Sunday became the first sitting U.S. president in history to set foot in North Korea following his third face-to-face meeting with North Korean leader and Chairman Kim Jong Un.

The meeting was the first between the two leaders since nuclear talks brokedown during the Hanoi summit in Vietnam, this past February when President Trump walked away from a ‘bad deal’. Following the completion of the G20 Summit in Japan, President Trump first met with South Korean President Moon Jae-in for official visit and meetings, then traveled by helicopter to the demilitarized zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea, while extending the invitation to Kim Jong Un to join them. Recall, the first inkling and mention of such a meeting with the intention of possibly meeting with President Kim occurred earlier this past week. Understand, that mention by President Trump, was a signal that the effort was already underway diplomatically through negotiations and planning by the White House, State Department and both South and North Korea. 

President Trump told reporters early this morning, “We respect each other and referring to Kim Jong Un, has agreed to meet and I am going to meet him in about 4 minutes.” Both Trump and the North Korean leader shook hands at the DMZ representing the Military Demarcation. Kim Jong Un told President Trump, “Good to see you again.” He added that he “never expected” to see Trump “at this place.” President Trump added,

“Stepping across that line was a great honor and I think it’s historic, it’s a great day for the world.” The President added that he would consider inviting Kim Jong Un to the White House “right now.”

After their meeting, at approximately 2:46 a.m. (EST), President Trump crossed over the 16-inch dividing line with Kim Jong Un, becoming the first U.S. president to walk on North Korean soil. While this was indeed a historic photo, understand the true purpose behind this event was the President’s actual motives and intentions were to revitalize stalled nuclear talks and demonstrate the continued friendship between both countries. The encounter was the third time President Trump and Chairman Kim have gotten together in person. Both leaders have said they are committed to the “complete denuclearization” of the Korean peninsula.

The two leaders later held a bilateral meeting at The Freedom House in South Korea where both men spoke to the press. Kim Jong Un, through an interpreter, said, “I believe this is an expression of [the president’s] willingness to eliminate all the unfortunate past and open a new future.” Trump reciprocated and said he has developed a “good relationship” with Kim Jong Un. After Kim Jong Un returned to his country, President Trump told reporters that he was the one who offered to step across the line and that the North Korean leader said he would be “honored” by the gesture.

Remember, the last time the two leaders met was in Hanoi in February in which those discussions were to discuss denuclearization, unfortunately, President Trump abruptly ended the meeting and opted not to reach an agreement with Kim Jong Un, asserting that the North Korean leader had unrealistic expectations about a deal. President Trump explained after the summit, “Basically, they wanted the sanctions lifted in their entirety, and we couldn’t do that. They were willing to de-nuke a large portion of the areas that we wanted, but we couldn’t give up all of the sanctions for that.” He further added, “Sometimes you have to walk.”

Today’s remarkable sequence of events underscored the unconventional detente between the U.S. and North Korea, longtime adversaries whose leaders have struck a warm personal connection. The meeting is an extraordinary development, despite the doubt already being placed on its impact for both the U.S. and North Korea. Many say neither side has changed its negotiating stance, believing that once talks resume, both sides will run into the same wall of repeating what has been said before.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo later said that Stephen Biegun, the U.S. special representative for North Korea, would probably begin the new working-level talks with his counterparts from the North Korean foreign ministry in the middle of July at a location yet to be determined. Pompeo reiterated that despite what the media has said, “Even in Hanoi, we made progress,” “And so we think we do have a jumping-off point for these discussions, which will put us in a place where we can truly evaluate if there is any clear path forward. Having listened to Chairman Kim today, I think there is.” It should be noted that while the media and pundits may be critical, numerous other foreign policy experts have said that both countries were really close in Hanoi, with basic shortcomings on defining terms. Secretary Pompeo acknowledged that the two sides didn’t yet have a common definition of denuclearization but asserted that they were “not at square one.”

This round of the Pyongyang engagement—unfolding in summits last June in Singapore and then in Vietnam in February—has contrasted with previous denuclearization efforts through the substantial role the two countries’ leaders have taken in the deal making. Previous efforts leaned more on working-level talks to iron out disarmament agreements. Understand, negotiations with North Korea to try to convince it to abandon its controversial nuclear program reached a peak last year when President Trump and Mr. Kim had a historic meeting in Singapore. They both committed to the “complete denuclearization” of the Korean peninsula, but without clarifying what that meant. That is the sticking point right now and the reason President Trump for the most part walked out of the Hanoi Summit.

The difference. Pyongyang wants the process to unfold in a gradual, step-by-step process, as the U.S. removes some economic penalties on the cash-strapped regime. Washington and the White House desires a grander bargain where the North agrees to specifics before sanctions are relaxed.

As Secretary Pompeo noted, negotiators from the two countries will meet in the next weeks to resume discussions about North Korea’s nuclear program. It is unknown yet whether the U.S. and North Korea offered new, more flexible stances for the denuclearization talks. But some security experts see value in today’s third, though short meeting nonetheless because it reduces the likelihood that Pyongyang will turn to even smaller-scale provocations. President Trump told said he was not looking for speed, but looking to get it right.

Sanctions on North Korea, he added, would remain in place though he appeared to leave open the possibility of easing them as part of the talks. The President also said he had invited Mr. Kim to visit Washington in the future.

Negotiations with North Korea to try to convince it to abandon its controversial nuclear program reached a peak last year when President Trump and Mr. Kim had a historic meeting in Singapore. They both committed to the “complete denuclearization” of the Korean peninsula, but without clarifying what that meant. That will be a pivotal goal and I believe this President will attain it.

Bottom line: This is a significant day for American diplomacy. To his credit, President Trump caused this happen. This was a big risk and the President needs to be applauded for it. One must understand the power President Trump welds, realize Kim did not have to approve of this, nor show up when you consider the stress that is being imposed and levied on him and his country by the weight of U.S. sanctions. In the effort to make this happen, which by the way started days ago — this did not occur by chance, this idea was President Trump’s doing well before wheels-up from Joint Base Andrews last week.

Inside Side Note: The real dynamics are somewhat different, et al the messaging, despite the speculation and questioning as to when, how and whether this meeting/event was going to happen. Behind the scenes, this was already set in stone, so to speak, when the possibility was first announced earlier last week. Again, understand, that mention by President Trump, was a signal that the effort was already underway diplomatically. 

This President took a big risk — regardless if you are liberal or Conservative, you must understand, Donald Trump has the courage to fail. This is how history is made, by taking positive steps despite the possibility of failure.

In the coming days, as is already occurring as you read this, the mainstream media will relentlessly attack and be critical of President Trump’s success. My advice to all of you: Ignore it! It makes you part of the problem and enablers and or part and members of the political-lefts’, the Progressives’, and Socialists’ USEFUL IDIOTS! The reason, this Presidents unique and effect unconventional, asymmetric and unorthodox efforts, methods and means to get things done. As I’ve said, many time in the past, this President, Donald Trump does not follow the traditional conventional political playbook. He is bold, dynamic, and in your face. And it is working and it is driving his opponents, agitators, and detractors insane. Trump achieved another first with his venture, accomplishing a number critical and historic steps – the most important of which was showing U.S. determination and resolve in diplomacy and statesmanship. The diplomatic table now has been reset with North Korea, for negotiations to be restarted and a solid effort to continue.


Jim Waurishuk is a retired USAF Colonel, serving nearly 30-years as a career senior intelligence and political-military affairs officer and special mission intelligence officer with expertise in strategic intelligence, international strategic studies and policy, and asymmetric warfare. He served as a special mission intelligence officer assigned to multiple Joint Special Operations units and with the CIA’s Asymmetric Warfare Task Force and international and foreign advisory positions. He served as Deputy Director for Intelligence for U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM) during the peak years of the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Global War on Terrorism.

Waurishuk is a former White House National Security Council staffer and a former Distinguished Senior Fellow with the Atlantic Council, Washington, D.C. He served as a senior advisor to the Commander U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) and served as Vice President of the Special Ops-OPSEC.

Currently, he is the Chairman of the Hillsborough County (FL) Republican Executive Committee and Party and serves on the Executive Board of the Republican Party of Florida.

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