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  • Ashok Dhillon

With North Korea – Trump Retreads Bill Clinton’s Ground (#67)


Preamble: It could be argued that Democratic Presidents were better for the United States, generally speaking. From Franklin Delano Roosevelt Sr. onward - his leadership during the Great Depression and the Second World War was legend, as was John Kennedy himself, the Moon Landing (the ‘Camelot’ years), right on to Barack Obama, whose two terms were literally historic from being the first African-American President, to saving the World’s financial system from Republican (Bush) destruction, to capturing and killing the most wanted foreign terrorist in American history, Osama Bin-Ladin. Democratic Presidents have generally been socially and economically more responsible in managing deficits, civil and human rights, and have presided over some of America’s best times. Ronald Reagan was an exception to the otherwise lackluster line up of Republicans that came along, with some really destructive ones like Richard Nixon (Tricky Dicky), and George W. Bush doing some significant overall damage. But even under the affable and generally effective Ronald Reagan, the deficits ballooned and his Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, launched the era of ever lower interest rates that inflated some of the most destructive economic bubbles of the past decades, and the continuing ‘everything bubble’ we are all living in today. And then came Trump. Donald J. Trump is by far the phoniest President to come along. Obsessed with self-aggrandizement over good governance, his claims to self-greatness are almost as frequent and legend as his daily need for lying. Now as he preens with unmitigated glee for the upcoming Summit with North Korea, and its leader Kim Jong-un, and is barely able to contain his anticipation for being in the global spotlight, his claims to his perceived greatness are once again overblown and misguided because a Democrat President has already accomplished what Donald Trump is going to try and accomplish with Kim Jong-un: get an Agreement with North Korea about it ‘Denuclearizing’.

Unfortunately for Trump, it’s already been done once before by a Democrat President.

The Agreed Framework: On June 12th, 2018 POTUS Donald Trump is supposed to meet Kim Jong-un of North Korea in what is being billed as the Summit of the Century (at least in Trump’s mind). Hyperbole aside, this is an unusual meeting as in the past the United States has assiduously tried to avoid giving North Korea and its dictatorial family of leaders that kind of international recognition and legitimacy. Trump sticking with his ‘damn convention and the torpedoes’ has boldly stepped forward and invited Kim Jong-un to meet and talk, which after a few stumbles between them is now slated for June 12th. This move of a sitting U.S. President meeting with the current North Korean leader, is taking place with the full blessings of the Republican majority, who in the past have vociferously opposed such overtures by Democratic Presidents. But the fact is, Democrat President Bill Clinton had actually negotiated and signed a Denuclearization Agreement with North Korea in 1994 called the ‘Agreed Framework’, in spite of the usual partisan, active and highly regressive Republican opposition.

So, much as Trump would like to think that he is accomplishing mission impossible, it has already been done by President, Bill Clinton, 24 years ago, on October 21, 1994, and much as he would rather die than admit it, history deficient Trump is treading in Bill Clinton’s old and well worn steps.

Under the broad terms of the ‘Agreed Framework’ of 1994:

North Korea had agreed to:

  • Freeze and ultimately dismantle all its nuclear weapons development program in exchange for full normalization of political and economic relations with the United States, which included the easing of sanctions;

  • Freeze of all construction of graphite-moderated nuclear reactors that could produce enriched material for the development of nuclear weapons;

  • Remain a party to the International Non Proliferation Agreement (INPA);

  • Take steps to implement the 1992 ‘Joint Declaration of the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula’; and

  • North Korea would allow International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to carry out inspections of its formerly active sites.

The U.S. had agreed to:

  • Supply 500,000 tons, per year, of heavy fuel oil, for alternative energy production to North Korea for agreeing to ‘denuclearize’;

  • Supply and build, by 2003, two 1000 MWe ‘Light Water Nuclear Reactors’ that would provide North Korea with energy without the ability to continue its nuclear weapons program; and …

  • The U.S. also gave formal peace and safety assurances in ‘the Agreed Framework’, including, that it would not attack North Korea with nuclear weapons.

For a few years everything kind of worked, with plenty slippage on terms on both sides.

With the Republicans putting up a consistent and active opposition to President Clinton’s negotiating efforts, America’s commitments were carried out sloppily at best, and not at all at the worst. This created an air of suspicion and distrust between North Korea and the U.S. and resulted in North Korea taking increasing liberties with the terms of the ‘Agreed Framework’.

Before President Clinton’s administration could put together additional agreements to build on the progress that had been achieved to-date, his two terms were up and President George W. Bush was elected. Bush’s Republican administration, rather than advance the agreement already in place, began their own review of the North Korea policy (‘Iran Deal’ comes to mind).

Even though, purportedly, the Bush administration’s review called for additional negotiations, before that could happen, American intelligence reported that North Korea was pursuing technology for a uranium enrichment program to produce material for nuclear weapons. Rather than try and push North Korea back, those that had always opposed negotiations with North Korea amongst the Republicans, were happy to find an excuse to try and kill it, in particular Under Secretary of State John Bolton (yes the same), who apparently wrote later, ‘this was the hammer I was looking for to shatter the Agreed Framework’.

By January 2003 both parties had dropped any pretense at trying to keep any agreements in place, each side accusing the other of breaking the terms of the agreement and not keeping their side of the bargain.

That breakdown in trust and negotiations, favored by the Republican administration, which included George W. Bush openly putting North Korea on his ‘Axis of Evil’ list, not exactly the soothing words to use to win friends and influence people, led to North Korea renewing their efforts to restart their nuclear program, which has led them to having nuclear weapons today.

The recalcitrant regimes today, North Korea, Iran, and others, have been the victims of insincere American commitments and unreliable reassurances of highly aggressive and warlike Republican dominated U.S. governments of the past. The current hawkish Republican administration topped by John Bolton & Mike Pompeo, along with all the ‘yes men’ of the rest of the Republican lawmakers, coupled with a highly unreliable and compulsively lying POTUS Trump, hardly sets the stage for constructive long term agreements with anyone, let alone with a very suspicious and jumpy North Korea, or moves the World towards peace.

To aggrandize his initiative to negotiate directly with North Korea, Trump is going to claim not ‘American Exceptionalism’, but ‘Trump Exceptionalism’. But even there, Trump is going to be wrong, Bill Clinton has already accomplished what he is going to try and accomplish, which is to get an agreement with North Korea to ‘Denuclearize’, for the ‘normalization of relations’ and the easing of sanctions. Both the U.S. and North Korea have already been there and done that. We doubt the long term results are going to be much different than the last time – seeming easy progress at the start and then slippage by both sides towards the old status quo.

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