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The Text of the Statement Signed by the President and Kim Jong Un at the Singapore Summit

From CNN:

Joint Statement of President Donald J. Trump of the United States of America and Chairman Kim Jong Un of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea at the Singapore Summit

President Donald J. Trump of the United States of America and Chairman Kim Jong Un of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) held a first, historic summit in Singapore on June 12, 2018.
President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un conducted a comprehensive, in-depth and sincere exchange of opinions on the issues related to the establishment of new US-DPRK relations and the building of a lasting and robust peace regime on the Korean Peninsula. President Trump committed to provide security guarantees to the DPRK, and Chairman Kim Jong Un reaffirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
Convinced that the establishment of new US-DPRK relations will contribute to the peace and prosperity of the Korean Peninsula and of the world, and recognizing that mutual confidence building can promote the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un state the following:
  1. The United States and the DPRK commit to establish new US-DPRK relations in accordance with the desire of the peoples of the two countries for peace and prosperity.
  2. The United States and DPRK will join their efforts to build a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.
  3. Reaffirming the April 27, 2018 Panmunjom Declaration, the DPRK commits to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula
  4. The United States and the DPRK commit to recovering POW/MIA remains, including the immediate repatriation of those already identified.
Having acknowledged that the US-DPRK summit — the first in history — was an epochal event of great significance in overcoming decades of tensions and hostilities between the two countries and for the opening up of a new future, President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un commit to implement the stipulations in the joint statement fully and expeditiously. The United States and the DPRK commit to hold follow-on negotiations, led by the US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, and a relevant high-level DPRK official, at the earliest possible date, to implement the outcomes of the US-DPRK summit.
President Donald J. Trump of the United States of America and Chairman Kim Jong Un of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea have committed to cooperate for the development of new US-DPRK relations and for the promotion of peace, prosperity, and the security of the Korean Peninsula and of the world.
DONALD J. TRUMP
President of the United States of America
KIM JONG UN
Chairman of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
June 12, 2018
Sentosa Island
Singapore

Joe Cirincione provides the analysis:

There is nothing new here in this statement. As I wrote on May 1st (emphasis mine):

When you hear or read Kim or other DPRK officials calling for denuclearization, part of what they mean is for the US to remove the nuclear umbrella that it provides to Japan and the ROK, if not the removal of the US military from the Korean Peninsula. Not giving up the DPRK’s nuclear deterrent. Sue Mi Terry, formerly a senior Korea analyst at the CIA, provides an explanation of what denuclearization means to Kim:

She said it’s significant that Kim spoke not of removing nuclear weapons from North Korea, but rather of the “denuclearization of the Korean peninsula,” as a whole. That formulation by the Kim government is “not new,” Terry told me, and has been accompanied in the past with demands for measures to preserve the regime’s security such as the signing of a peace treaty to finally end the Korean War, the withdrawal of U.S. troops from South Korea, and the end of the U.S.-South Korean military alliance, which in turn would terminate the protection the United States extends to South Korea through its nuclear weapons. Hence, talk of a nuclear-free peninsula despite the fact that South Korea doesn’t have nuclear weapons. (In this respect, Kim was right to assert that he was simply echoing the policies of his father, who was also quoted by Chinese media as committing to the denuclearization of the peninsula even as he persisted in developing the nation’s nuclear-weapons arsenal.)

What Kim is talking about is not what the President or anyone on his team is talking about when they talk about denuclearization. Before US-DPRK negotiations have ever begun we have a fundamental mismatch of what the key term means. This will make negotiating more difficult if there is no agreement to what the key terms mean and key issues actually are. There is little doubt that President Moon knows exactly what Kim means when he talks about denuclearization. Moreover, President Moon is no doubt very clear about the President not wanting to keep US military personnel in the ROK. The President, per his longstanding belief dating back to 1987, sees this as a waste of money and another example of America’s allies and partners taking advantage of it and playing the US for suckers.

While this is all significantly better than threats, escalations, and preparations for war, Kim got what he needed out of this summit and the President really didn’t. Kim’s now met with the President of the United States, which elevates his status internally and makes US allies like Japan very nervous. He got to go out on the town in Singapore after his arrival. The President has still floated the idea of a possible invite for a follow on summit in the US – either at the White House or Mar a Lago. The President has made vague statements of assurances of that an agreement will guarantee Kim’s regime’s survival, as well as significant economic aid. And Kim hasn’t had to do anything he wasn’t going to do anyway in exchange for all of this. Including agreeing to do anything substantial as a result of yesterday’s summit.

The President and his supporters will try to push this as a huge win over the next several months heading into the midterm elections. A sign of initial diplomatic and foreign policy success to compete with and cancel out the coming bad news that will accompany the trade war and counter tariffs that will result from the tariffs that the President had demanded and insists will Make America Great again for the forgotten men and women of America who are forgotten no more. Slowly, however, reality will intrude. Kim will continue to not give an inch; he’ll simply play good Supreme Leader in juxtaposition to playing bad Supreme Leader last year.

Updated at 8:oo AM EDT: (h/t Cheryl Rofer in comments)

The President appears to have caught everyone off guard by stating he’s going to stop further Joint, Interagency, Intergovernmental, and Multinational (JIIM) military exercises with our South Korean and Japanese allies.

Optics over substance.

Open thread!

(ETA: I fixed the missing Cirincione tweet that WP ate.)



US-DPRK Summit Part II: The Summiting!!!

As we wait for actual news to come out of the initial bilateral meeting between the President and Kim Jong Un with only interpreters present, just a few thoughts of what to look for as the evening/night here in the US wears on.

  1. The initial bilateral meeting is only the President, Kim, and interpreters. No note takers. This is significant and may lead to completely different read outs of the meeting. With the US presenting a read out that indicates the meeting went one way and the DPRK releasing one that contradicts it. Or, as has been the case so often, the US not releasing a read out until forced to because the other party to the meeting released one that cast the President in a bad light. Or details leaked from within the administration that did the same thing. This is why you never go into one of these meetings without your own interpreter and your own note taker!
  2. It has been reported that the communique has already been written and agreed to. While this isn’t all that uncommon, it will be interesting to see how different the communique is from either or both of the read outs, let alone the leaks, from the initial bilateral meetings or from whatever the President tweets once the summit is over.
  3. Earlier today it was reported that Secretary Mattis was unsure if a reduction of US forces in South Korea is on the agenda for discussion. While I doubt that Secretary Pompeo would have allowed it to be part of the structured discussion in the second meeting, given how the President operates it is one of the potential wild cards that could throw everyone for a loop.
  4. Despite stating otherwise on Friday before leaving for the G7 summit, the President will not be bringing up the DPRK’s human rights issues, so don’t expect that to be addressed in the read outs or the communique.
  5. It was reported last week that Kim’s envoy, Kim Yong Chol, pitched a development opportunity to the President when he met with him last week in the White House. Specifically a casino development project in the DPRK. If this is indeed an accurate report, then the Trump Doctrine, “I will be treated fairly or else”, is in play. (I’ll have more on the Trump Doctrine tomorrow in regard to Jeffrey Goldberg’s article in The Atlantic. The Bottom Line Up Front is that Goldberg has mistaken sloganeering for a strategic narrative.)
  6. Keep in mind that Kim has already gotten what he needed out of this summit. He’s meeting with the President of the United States; he got to go out on the town last night; a possible invite for a follow on summit in the US – either at the White House or Mar a Lago – has been floated by the President; rumored assurances of his regimes survival and significant economic aid. Up to this point Kim hasn’t had to do anything he wasn’t going to do anyway in exchange for all of this.
  7. Watch to see if the schedule is stuck to or if the initial bilateral meeting between the President and Kim runs late.

Stay frosty!

Open thread!



I’d Like Two Supreme Leader Combos, A Glorious Leader With Cheese And A Side Of Kimche, And Supersize the Soju!

The intelligence estimate of what Kim Jong Un is and is not willing to negotiate has leaked! NBC has the details:

A new U.S. intelligence assessment has concluded that North Korea does not intend to give up its nuclear weapons any time soon, three U.S. officials told NBC News — a finding that conflicts with recent statements by President Donald Trump that Pyongyang intends to do so in the future.

President Trump is continuing to pursue a nuclear summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un even though the CIA analysis, which is consistent with other expert opinion, casts doubt on the viability of Trump’s stated goal for the negotiations, the elimination of North Korea’s nuclear weapons stockpile.

“Everybody knows they are not going to denuclearize,” said one intelligence official who read the report, which was circulated earlier this month, days before Trump canceled the originally scheduled summit.

In an odd twist, a list of potential concessions by North Korea in the CIA analysis included the possibility that Kim Jong Un may consider offering to open a Western hamburger franchise in Pyongyang as a show of goodwill, according to three national security officials.

Does The Trump Doctrine of “I will be treated fairly or else” play a role in all this? Yes it does!

It suggests Kim is interested in a peaceful gesture to an American president whose love of fast-food burgers is well known — and who, during the 2016 campaign, had said he wanted to talk nukes over a burger with the North Korean leader.

And I’ll also need an Eternal President of the DPRK happy meal too!

Open thread.



The US IS Now Superfluous To The Future Of The Korean Peninsula Part II

On May 1st I wrote:

I also think that aside from the meeting between Kim and the President, the US is now superfluous to the reality on the ground. And that Kim is manipulating the President into a diplomatic and strategic trap where Kim and the DPRK looks like the good guys here and the President, and by extension the US, look unreasonable and become the bad guys. This would also make Xi and the PRC, as well as Putin – another Kim patron – very, very happy.

Part of the problem is I don’t think the President or anyone on his team really seem to understand where President Moon is coming from. Moon is from the center-left/left of center party in the ROK that seeks an opening with the DPRK. His parents were also refugees from the DPRK to the ROK, so reaching a rapprochement that allows for families to be reunited is very important for him.

Moon clearly wants to reach a new normal on the Korean Peninsula. Kim, in the DPRK, wants what he’s always wanted:

  • the removal of the US, specifically of the US military, from the peninsula
  • the reunification of the peninsula
  • under Kim family control
  • preservation of the Kim family regime

What Kim is talking about is not what the President or anyone on his team is talking about when they talk about denuclearization. Before US-DPRK negotiations have ever begun we have a fundamental mismatch of what the key term means. This will make negotiating more difficult if there is no agreement to what the key terms mean and key issues actually are. There is little doubt that President Moon knows exactly what Kim means when he talks about denuclearization. Moreover, President Moon is no doubt very clear about the President not wanting to keep US military personnel in the ROK. The President, per his longstanding belief dating back to 1987, sees this as a waste of money and another example of America’s allies and partners taking advantage of it and playing the US for suckers.

… the South Koreans know exactly where they stand with the President. So it should not be surprising that President Moon is going to pursue the ROK’s interests and get the best deal he can get with Kim if there is a deal to be had regardless of what happens between the DPRK and the US. Moon has essentially recognized that there are two separate, though somewhat related, diplomatic tracks going on. The first he controls and is bilaterally between the ROK and the DPRK. The second involves the US, is sort of multilateral and at the same time sort of bilateral, and may or may not be anything more than a show.

From the perspective of the DPRK’s Kim, he’s already gotten what he wants from the US: agreement to the meeting. This elevates Kim and the DPRK from pariah status to worthy of direct negotiations with the US and the President. While the President and his team don’t seem to realize this, or if they do, acknowledge it publicly, this is a key concession from the US to the DPRK. And it was provided without Kim having to do much of anything.

All of this is even more evident today with the President withdrawing from the scheduled June summit in Singapore. President Moon as well as the members of his government, have now seen that even if they try to work within the Trump Doctrine and treat the President fairly in order avoid the “or else”, they’re still likely to get the “or else”. The South Koreans gave the President a number of largely symbolic* concessions in the renegotiated trade agreement in order to pursue the “treat fairly” track of the Trump Doctrine. Instead they’ve gotten the “or else” response. The President has repeatedly stated that he wants to pull all US forces out of the ROK because the South Koreans are ripping us off in terms of trade, he cancelled the more controversial for the DPRK portion of the air warfare exercise with the ROK to keep Kim locked into the summit he just cancelled, and he’s now cancelled the summit because the North Koreans replied as in a very predictable way to the Vice President’s and the National Security Advisor’s threatening invocation of how the US dealt with Muamar Qadafi after he gave up his limited nuclear weapons capability.

At this point Moon has tried the “treat fairly” track of the Trump Doctrine and gotten little positive result. In fact he’s largely gotten the “or else” response. Especially as it has been reported that Moon was “blindsided” by this morning’s announcement.

South Korea’s government seemed blindsided by Trump’s announcement.

“We are attempting to make sense of what, precisely, President Trump means,” said government spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom.

Shortly before midnight in Seoul, South Korea’s president called an emergency meeting to discuss Trump’s decision, summoning his chief of staff, national security adviser, foreign minister, unification minister and intelligence chief to the presidential Blue House.

As a result he has every incentive to simply continue to bilaterally negotiate with Kim to achieve Moon’s and Moon’s government’s understanding of the ROK’s national interest. By impulsively deciding to grant Kim a summit based and now impulsively pulling out of that summit because of some tough talk, the President seems to think that his maximum pressure campaign got him the opportunity for the summit and can now simply be reimposed and once again achieve positive goals. The problem, of course, is there is no evidence that the President’s maximum pressure approach actually contributed to or set the conditions for Kim to pursue a bilateral US-DPRK summit, which is something Kim, his father, and his grandfather have been trying to achieve for decades.

Here’s a link to the live feed of the President’s forthcoming remarks on his withdrawing from the summit with Kim.

Kim has largely already gotten what he wanted. He got the President to agree to meet with him. He got two photo ops with Secretary of State Pompeo. He got the President to call him an honorable man. And he got the President to call this off, making the US look like the mercurial, erratic, and unreliable obstacle to peace. It is important to remember that there are a whole bunch of foreign reporters in the DPRK right now because they were there to observe and report on the destruction of the DPRK nuclear test facility. If we’re very lucky, Kim won’t decide that he too can play the “or else” game as well and scarf these folks up as hostages to use as bargaining chips.

Updated at 12:20 PM EDT

The President has opened his remarks by threatening the DPRK with a military response. For whatever reason, between the President’s positive remarks about the summit in his pre recorded interview with Fox and Friends this AM, his issuing the withdrawal letter, and this press statement, he’s decided to go straight to belligerent. And despite what he’s saying in terms of greatly enhancing our military, the US does not currently have the operational capacity to fight a war on the Korean peninsula. Or anywhere else for that matter.

Updated at 12:35 PM EDT:

Not only did the President not give Moon a heads up, he also decided to blindside the DPRK too!

Open thread!

* The trade concessions that the ROK made are largely symbolic as they apply to types of goods that the US does not currently sell in the ROK and has no intention of doing so for the foreseeable future.



The Nobel Lie: The US Is Now Superfluous To The Future Of The Korean Peninsula

There’s been a lot of chatter over the past day or so about President Moon of the ROK stating that the President should get the Nobel Peace Prize. This isn’t exactly what President Moon said:

Leaving potential Nobel Peace prizes aside, what the President’s approach to foreign policy in general, and dealing with both the ROK and the DPRK in specific, has made the US superfluous to the process. I’ve read the joint statement from Kim and Moon a couple of times. While the language is nice and flowery and ambiguous, I think that section 2 and parts of section 3 are going to be what cause the US headaches. These sections read to me as the pretext for Kim to demand or require that 1) the Joint Multinational US-ROK annual military exercises stop and 2) the US drawdown its 28K personnel in the ROK as they will no longer be needed. This is in line with how Kim and the DPRK understands denuclearization, which always means getting the US off the peninsula, not that the DPRK necessarily gives up its nuclear weapons program, or, now, the fruits of its program.

I also think that aside from the meeting between Kim and the President, the US is now superfluous to the reality on the ground. And that Kim is manipulating the President into a diplomatic and strategic trap where Kim and the DPRK looks like the good guys here and the President, and by extension the US, look unreasonable and become the bad guys. This would also make Xi and the PRC, as well as Putin – another Kim patron – very, very happy.

Part of the problem is I don’t think the President or anyone on his team really seem to understand where President Moon is coming from. Moon is from the center-left/left of center party in the ROK that seeks an opening with the DPRK. His parents were also refugees from the DPRK to the ROK, so reaching a rapprochement that allows for families to be reunited is very important for him.

Moon clearly wants to reach a new normal on the Korean Peninsula. Kim, in the DPRK, wants what he’s always wanted:

  • the removal of the US, specifically of the US military, from the peninsula
  • the reunification of the peninsula
  • under Kim family control
  • preservation of the Kim family regime

When you hear or read Kim or other DPRK officials calling for denuclearization, part of what they mean is for the US to remove the nuclear umbrella that it provides to Japan and the ROK, if not the removal of the US military from the Korean Peninsula. Not giving up the DPRK’s nuclear deterrent. Sue Mi Terry, formerly a senior Korea analyst at the CIA, provides an explanation of what denuclearization means to Kim:

She said it’s significant that Kim spoke not of removing nuclear weapons from North Korea, but rather of the “denuclearization of the Korean peninsula,” as a whole. That formulation by the Kim government is “not new,” Terry told me, and has been accompanied in the past with demands for measures to preserve the regime’s security such as the signing of a peace treaty to finally end the Korean War, the withdrawal of U.S. troops from South Korea, and the end of the U.S.-South Korean military alliance, which in turn would terminate the protection the United States extends to South Korea through its nuclear weapons. Hence, talk of a nuclear-free peninsula despite the fact that South Korea doesn’t have nuclear weapons. (In this respect, Kim was right to assert that he was simply echoing the policies of his father, who was also quoted by Chinese media as committing to the denuclearization of the peninsula even as he persisted in developing the nation’s nuclear-weapons arsenal.)

What Kim is talking about is not what the President or anyone on his team is talking about when they talk about denuclearization. Before US-DPRK negotiations have ever begun we have a fundamental mismatch of what the key term means. This will make negotiating more difficult if there is no agreement to what the key terms mean and key issues actually are. There is little doubt that President Moon knows exactly what Kim means when he talks about denuclearization. Moreover, President Moon is no doubt very clear about the President not wanting to keep US military personnel in the ROK. The President, per his longstanding belief dating back to 1987, sees this as a waste of money and another example of America’s allies and partners taking advantage of it and playing the US for suckers.

As NBC reported yesterday:

In one heated exchange between the two men before February’s Winter Olympics in South Korea, Kelly strongly — and successfully — dissuaded Trump from ordering the withdrawal of all U.S. troops from the Korean Peninsula, according to two officials.

That the President wants the US troops out, as the “or else” portion of the Trump Doctrine, because he doesn’t believe the US is being treated fairly by the ROK in terms of trade, is not exactly a state secret.

President Donald Trump on Wednesday appeared to threaten to withdraw US troops from South Korea if he can’t get a better trade deal with Seoul.

In a fundraising speech in Missouri, Trump told donors South Korea had become rich but that American politicians never negotiated better deals, according to audio obtained by The Washington Post and confirmed to CNN by an attendee.

“We have a very big trade deficit with them, and we protect them,” Trump said. “We lose money on trade, and we lose money on the military.”

“We have right now 32,000 soldiers on the border between North and South Korea. Let’s see what happens,” Trump said.

The President went on to argue, “Our allies care about themselves. They don’t care about us.”

On Friday, South Korean Finance Minister, Kim Dong-yeon, appeared to hit back at Trump’s remarks.

“We don’t think it’s ideal to link an economic issue with such an issue [the withdrawal of US troops],” said Kim, while speaking on South Korean TBS radio.

“The South Korean government, with national interest of South Korea as priority, will consider striking a balance in the national economy and among multiple industries,” said Kim.

“We have many issues to take into consideration dealing with the United States as well.”

As the ROK’s finance minister’s response indicates, the South Koreans know exactly where they stand with the President. So it should not be surprising that President Moon is going to pursue the ROK’s interests and get the best deal he can get with Kim if there is a deal to be had regardless of what happens between the DPRK and the US. Moon has essentially recognized that there are two separate, though somewhat related, diplomatic tracks going on. The first he controls and is bilaterally between the ROK and the DPRK. The second involves the US, is sort of multilateral and at the same time sort of bilateral, and may or may not be anything more than a show.

From the perspective of the DPRK’s Kim, he’s already gotten what he wants from the US: agreement to the meeting. This elevates Kim and the DPRK from pariah status to worthy of direct negotiations with the US and the President. While the President and his team don’t seem to realize this, or if they do, acknowledge it publicly, this is a key concession from the US to the DPRK. And it was provided without Kim having to do much of anything.

Stay frosty!

Open thread.



Cyber Warfare, Asymmetric Advantage, and Limiting Factors

According to The BBC the DPRK successfully hacked the Republic of Korea’s Ministry of Defense. This includes contingency plans developed with the US.

Hackers from North Korea are reported to have stolen a large cache of military documents from South Korea, including a plan to assassinate North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un.

Rhee Cheol-hee, a South Korean lawmaker, said the information was from his country’s defence ministry.

The compromised documents include wartime contingency plans drawn up by the US and South Korea.

They also include reports to the allies’ senior commanders.

The South Korean defence ministry has so far refused to comment about the allegation.

Plans for the South’s special forces were reportedly accessed, along with information on significant power plants and military facilities in the South.

This type of cyber warfare, specifically an act of espionage in the cyber domain, provides the DPRK with an asymmetric informational advantage. This advantage creates a limiting factor for the ROK, the US, and their allies in attempting to deter the DPRK’s actions and activities. A limiting factor is defined in Joint Publication 1-2/Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms as:

A factor or condition that, either temporarily or permanently, impedes mission accomplishment. (from Joint Publication 5-0/Joint Operational Planning)

If the reports about this hack are correct, the US’s military options, which were already constrained by the physical and human geography of the Korean peninsula, have now been further narrowed by enemy action. While US military planning is continuously updated with plans and sequels being adjusted as needed, they are usually based on a consensus understanding of the potential operating environment. This includes an understanding of the challenges and opportunities that arise from everything from the political to infrastructure to the geography of where the US may have to deploy military forces. What the DOD planners will have to do now is go back and review the consensus that the contingency plans were based on to determine if they have the operational space to develop new plans for the same potential operating environment that both achieve the same strategic effects and are significantly different enough to neutralize the asymmetric information advantage that the DPRK now has.



Strategic Effects Versus Tactical Realities: Trade Deals

As pretty much anyone who has been paying any attention to the news today is aware it appears that the DPRK has tested a much larger nuclear device. With estimates of yield around the 100 kiloton range. I’m going to leave the technical write up to Cheryl as this is her area of expertise (no pressure…), but I want to talk about some of the strategic issues that we are now facing because of the test. Specifically those involved with trade relations with South Korea.

As I wrote about in regard to NATO and the EU, their real value isn’t at the tactical level, but at the strategic. Yes, the tactical and operational effects of deterring the Soviet Union and post 9-11 anti and counter-terrorism operations are very important. Especially the role they play in running NATO Training Mission Afghanistan. As is the role they’re playing today in attempting to deter Putin’s revanchism. But it is the geo-strategic effect of breaking the cycle of a major war on the European continent every 35 years that demonstrates NATO’s and the EU’s true value. While the US may not always get the best out of the NATO Alliance at the tactical end – though the only time Article V was invoked was after 9-11 on behalf of the US – nor from our trade agreement with the EU, both institutions and our arrangements/agreements with them are strategically priceless. Significant amounts of Americans have not had to go and die on the European continent since 1945. Nor have we had to spend significant financial resources to rebuild the continent a second time.

These important strategic effects are in the US’s interest, and they benefit the US, because the US is either the primary rule maker involved with them or one of the principle rule makers within the global system. This is why, for all its warts – and there were plenty – the Trans-Pacific Partnership made strategic sense. Yes, at the nickel and dime (tactical) level the US, and more specifically Americans, may not have done as well as the other signatories. And yes there were significant challenges to state sovereignty, such as the horrible corporate arbitration rules, but at the strategic level the effect was significant. The US would not only have reinforced its role as primary rule maker within the Asia-Pacific region, but also have blocked the PRC from emerging as a rival rule maker for the foreseeable future. While pulling the US out of the TPP may have made for a good photo-op and good messaging when playing to the domestic political base in the US, it was terrible strategic decision making. The result of the US just walking away from the Trans Pacific Partnership, the Peoples Republic of China has begun to assemble its own Asia-Pacific free trade agreement without the US.  The US has ceded the strategic power of economic rule making in the Asia-Pacific region to China because of the President’s America First focused tactical thinking. Which will, in time, have both a negative strategic and tactical effect on the US economy. And other American interests as well.

This is important because the President is considering pulling the US out of another trade agreement this week. Specifically the US-Korea Free Trade Agreement.

On Saturday, before the nuclear test, senior administration officials confirmed that they were considering withdrawing from a major trade agreement with South Korea over what they believe is Seoul’s pursuit of unfair protectionist policies that have led to huge United States trade deficits.

On trade, the president’s top economic advisers remain deeply divided over a possible withdrawal from the United States-Korea Free Trade Agreement, as negotiators from both countries struggle to rewrite the five-year-old deal.

In recent days, a frustrated Mr. Trump has pushed his staff to take bold action against a host of governments, including the one in Seoul, that he has accused of unfair trade practices. But many of his more moderate advisers, including the chairman of the National Economic Council, Gary D. Cohn, believe that such a move could prompt a trade war that could hurt the United States economy.

The possibility of abandoning the agreement has alarmed economists and some members of the president’s own party who fear that such a move would force South Korea to block American manufacturers and farmers from a lucrative market.

While the NY Times and other reporting about what may happen with the US-Korean Trade Agreement largely focuses on the economic issues, specifically the tactical effects felt in both countries’ economies, the bigger concern here is the strategic. The Republic of Korea has a new President who was elected on a platform that included attempting new diplomatic talks with the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea. This morning part of the President’s initial flurry of communications about the DPRK’s latest test was to slam President Moon for appeasing Kim Jung-Un.

Unlike the vast majority of the US, until/unless Kim’s engineers and scientists resolve their outstanding missile development technology issues, the ROK is directly threatened by the DPRK’s conventional forces. President Moon’s intent to try to keep a military response from becoming necessary is born out of the very real concern for survival. For all that Kim has threatened Guam or even LA, it is Seoul that is within spitting distance of the Demilitarized Zone. And it is Seoul, the ROK’s military and civilians, the bulk of US Forces Korea, and hundreds of thousands of American and other expatriates working and living in Seoul  that would initially bear the brunt and pay the price for military escalation with the DPRK.

The President’s tactical focus, whether it is on the nickels and dimes gained or lost through free trade agreements or resources to be taken during military operations, even if that is a strategically and realistically foolish position to hold, is actually heightening the strategic threat. Right now we need the ROK, as well as Japan, the PRC, and our other regional allies and partners to be pulling together. Instead we seem to be actively pulling them apart because the current National Command Authority has lost sight of, or doesn’t understand, the strategically important components of the free trade and security agreements the US enters into (being the rule setter within the global system) while focusing on the tactical minutiae of the financial bottom line. Bellicosity and intimidation may have worked when the President was driving deals, but they don’t work for international diplomacy. And regardless of what the President may think of diplomacy, trying to get one’s allies, partners, and peer competitors to do what you want is diplomacy.

Right now the US needs strategic leadership. As in leadership that understands what is strategically important, clearly articulates the necessary policies, and develops effective strategy to achieve the effects and objectives of those policies. The President and everyone else needs to realize that the DPRK is a nuclear weapon state. Non-proliferation has failed. The US policy, and that of our allies, partners, and peer competitors with whom we have common cause on this issue, such as the PRC, need to shift their focus to containment and deterrence of the DPRK in regard to its potential use of nuclear weapons. How to do this is the strategically important discussion that needs to be had now.

Now more than ever the US needs to live up to its post World War II role as the global rule maker and enforcer, not down to the nativist, isolationist tendencies that seem to seize it every so often. To do that we need a President who thinks strategically, not tactically. And who understands that sometimes one must cede tactical advantage to achieve strategic victory.