Let’s get this out of the way up top: The outcome of yesterday’s summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is preferable to nuclear war. That’s a pretty low bar, of course, but lowering the bar increasingly seems like Trump’s one area of expertise. In any event, we can all be glad that he—and Kim—cleared it.
After that, the verdict is less forgiving for Trump. When stripped of all its smoke and mirrors, its oddball pageantry and puffery, the summit delivered a boilerplate document rehashing previous talking points on both sides, with no new concessions from Pyongyang. For that, Trump handed Kim the public relations bonanza his father, Kim Jong Il, could only dream of, consolidating Kim’s image at home and abroad as a leader of stature and a nuclear-armed peer of the American president.
If that weren’t bad enough, Trump decided to throw in a few chips after Kim had already scooped up the pot and left the table, announcing the suspension of U.S.-South Korean military exercises while the process of negotiating the actual terms of the summit’s joint statement of principles unfolds.