Atlantic Writer Who Derided Singapore Summit Now Praises It

June 21st, 2018 7:05 PM

Wow! Is there an outbreak of Singapore Summit critics who have changed their minds? On Saturday, Michael Smerconish who at first derided the video that President Donald Trump gave to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un revealed that on second viewing he developed respect for its persuasiveness. And on June 19, Atlantic magazine writer Uri Friedman stated that although he didn't think the Singapore Summit accomplished much last week, he now believes that the "results are actually of considerable consequence."

Let us first examine Friedman's state of mind on June 12 when he declared that Trump Got Nearly Nothing From Kim Jong Un:

On Tuesday, in Singapore, Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un shook hands, strode along colonnades, dined on stuffed cucumber and beef short rib confit, and signed a joint statement. But if this was, as Trump declared afterward, “a very important event in world history,” the president has little of substance to show for it beyond chummier relations with Kim—for the moment, at least.

Well, Friedman thought on it for a week and seems to have changed his mind quite a bit. Perhaps not a complete 180 but a very significant change of attitude in Here’s What Trump Actually Achieved With North Korea. The article was accompanied by the decidedly upbeat subtitle, It wasn't what he said. But it was much more than nothing.

In the days since the summit with Kim Jong Un, critics—including me—have pointed out how little the U.S. president got from North Korea’s leader during their much-hyped meeting. ...But the Trump administration racked up real accomplishments in Singapore that are perhaps best understood by setting aside the president’s grand (and at times groundless) pronouncements. The summit’s modest and provisional results are actually of considerable consequence.

Friedman then lists the results that he finds to have been of "considerable consequence."

1) U.S. concessions to North Korea so far are largely reversible.

2) The United States and North Korea are now talking to each other rather than threatening war.

3) Any North Korean denuclearization pledge is remarkable.

...North Korean state media has released a documentary on the Singapore summit that shows viewers the agreed-to language on denuclearization.

4) For the moment, some conditions for a realistic, halfway-decent nuclear deal with North Korea are in place.

5) Trump is experimenting with a promising politics-first approach to the North Korean nuclear crisis.

6) It’s possible this is the small start of something big.

Reflecting on the significance of the Singapore summit in an interview with the BBC, the former South Korean military officer I-B Chun quoted a Korean saying: “A long journey starts with the first step. And when that first step is taken, the journey is half-finished.” The journey to North Korea’s denuclearization may be a long way from half-finished, and may never finish or even end abruptly at any moment, but Trump’s meeting with Kim is certainly a first step in the right direction.