Donald Trump Abandons South Korea

Why is this man so happy?Yonhap News/Newscom via ZUMA

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From the Washington Post on the outcome of the Singapore summit:

Kim, it seems, got at least one benefit up front. Trump announced that he will order an end to regular “war games” that the United States conducts with ally South Korea, a reference to annual joint military exercises that are an irritant to North Korea. Trump called the exercises “very provocative” and “inappropriate” in light of the optimistic opening he sees with North Korea. Ending the exercises would also save money, Trump said.

….South Korea’s presidential office seemed blindsided by the announcement on the joint exercises. “We need to try to understand what President Trump said,” a spokesman for South Korean President Moon Jae-in said.

But it wasn’t just the South Koreans who were taken by surprise:

Both the South Korean government and US forces in the region appear to have been taken by surprise by Trump’s declared suspension of joint military exercises. US forces in Korea said they had not received updated guidance on military exercises. “In coordination with our ROK [Republic of Korea] partners, we will continue with our current military posture until we receive updated guidance,” a spokesperson told Reuters.

So far, Kim Jong Un has gotten a summit that treated him as an equal on the world stage. He’s gotten an end to US-ROK military exercises. He’s gotten the United States to ignore his appalling human rights record. And he’s gotten lots of new leverage in his relationship with China.

Donald Trump has gotten—nothing. Actually, that’s not quite right. He’s gotten less than North Korea has promised other presidents in previous negotiations. There was only the vaguest gesture toward ending its nuclear program. There was no promise of a testing moratorium. There was no promise of a development moratorium. There was no mention of “tangible” or “irreversible” or “permanent,” all of which had been previous US demands.

This. Is. Fucking. Nuts.

If this eventually turns into long-term peace and prosperity on the Korean peninsula, then fine. Everyone can tell me I was just a partisan hack who refused to give Donald Trump his due. But I’m not too worried about that right now. Right now this whole thing looks like the same kind of train wreck dealmaking that produced the Trump Plaza Hotel. God help us when Trump finally figures out what really happened.

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THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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