All the words, photos, handshakes and the joint statement that came out of the summit of the century in Singapore Tuesday between President Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un don’t matter when it comes to the North giving up its nuclear weapons. Only actions count.
And if history tells us anything, this is when things with the Kim dynasty always fall apart – because Kim Jong Un, his father and grandfather who ruled before him have never kept their word about any agreement with the United States. Every single promise Kim Jong Un and his father have made on nuclear disarmament has turned out to be a lie.
Thankfully, there is no need to repeat the mistakes of the past. Unless Kim Jong Un takes actual, concrete and verifiable steps to give up his atomic arms – such as offering a plan of action with specific steps the North will take and specific deadlines – the Trump administration must begin ramping up pressure on Pyongyang and intensify sanctions immediately.
In fact, there is a relatively easy way for America to hold North Korea to the pledges it made Tuesday in the joint statement signed by Kim and President Trump, which looks like past joint statements and aspirational promises. President Trump should give North Korea 30 days – and not any more time – to cut a deal on its abandonment of its nuclear arms.
If we do not take these steps, and once again continue to negotiate with North Korea for months and years over its nuclear program, we are simply repeating the mistakes of the past.
The idea is quite simple. We must make absolutely sure that North Korea does not attempt to implement its old diplomatic playbook by stalling for time and negotiating for months or years over the details of its nuclear program surrender – only for Washington to never see any real progress.
We must break this cycle of lie upon lie once and for all, while testing Kim’s intentions to see if he is truly serious about nuclear disarmament.
We should also make quite clear what happens in 30 days if North Korea does not lay out a plan on paper to get rid of every single one of its nuclear weapons and for us to verify the disarmament. If Kim turns out to be lying yet again, President Trump will have no choice but to ramp up sanctions dramatically, or what some are calling Maximum Pressure 2.0.
In such a scenario, America and our allies would press for what would amount to the end of any North Korea commerce or financial transactions that the regime could use to build any sort of offensive weapon. This would essentially be a complete and total end of all North Korea exports or economic activity outside of its borders.
This severe action would exert a heavy price on the Kim regime for its lies to the international community and for lulling America into a summit in bad faith.
Washington should also press for a full oil embargo of North Korea, to ensure its military is not able to fuel its tanks, trucks or heavy equipment.
We should also work with our allies to dramatically build up our missile defenses in East Asia, as Pyongyang is sure to react with anger over increased diplomatic and economic isolation.
If we do not take these steps, and once again continue to negotiate with North Korea for months and years over its nuclear program, we are simply repeating the mistakes of the past. We must once and for all break the cycle where Pyongyang uses negotiations as a mere tool to stall for time and build more and more nuclear weapons and long-range missiles.
If the Trump administration fails to do this, we are condemned to live in a world where North Korea has a growing nuclear arsenal that can strike the U.S. – potentially killing millions of Americans – and could sell its nuclear secrets to the highest bidder.
This nightmare scenario is something President Trump cannot and must not accept.