Trump has already made a dangerous diplomatic error on North Korea, and his senior adviser compounded it.
It was bad enough that Trump falsely claimed that North Korea had promised to “denuclearize” ahead of the upcoming summit. But when asked about it later, White House legislative affairs director Marc Short didn’t even know what the word meant.
“Sleepy Eyes Chuck Todd of Fake News NBC just stated that we have given up so much in our negotiations with North Korea, and they have given up nothing,” Trump wrote. “Wow, we haven’t given up anything & they have agreed to denuclearization (so great for World), site closure, & no more testing!”
Todd later interviewed Short, and tried to figure out what Trump was talking about. “Denuclearization. What does that mean to the president, and what do you think that means to the North Koreans?” Todd asked. “Do you think you guys agree on what that word even means?”
“I think from our perspective, it means full denuclearization,” Short said. “No longer having nuclear weapons that can be used in warfare against any of our allies.”
Todd is correct that North Korea has not made anything approaching a pledge to give up nuclear weapons, a fact which Short seemed to concede in his response. But even Short doesn’t know what the term “denuclearization” means in the parlance of nuclear diplomacy.
“Full denuclearization” refers not only to the possession of “nuclear weapons that can be used in warfare against any of our allies,” but also to the means of producing fuel that can be used in nuclear weapons, such as nuclear reactors.
That definition was codified in the 1992 Joint Declaration Of South And North Korea On The Denuclearization Of The Korean Peninsula, which says that both sides “agree not to test, manufacture, produce, receive, possess, store, deploy, or use nuclear weapons; to use nuclear energy solely for peaceful purposes; and not to possess facilities for nuclear reprocessing and uranium enrichment.”
Kim Jong Un has made neither of those pledges. Trump and his team are going into this historic summit unaware of what they’re asking for, let alone what North Korea is offering.