In response to President Donald Trump’s visit to North Korea on Sunday, several media outlets sought to belittle the visit and ascribe untoward motives to it.
“Donald Trump’s walk into North Korea can best be explained through the lens of the 2020 election,” wrote Stephen Collinson of CNN, a prolific Trump critic. The president needs to show progress now so “one of the most audacious photo ops in American diplomacy” can be viewed as “anything more than a stunt.”
But “even if that progress is slow to emerge, Trump can still chalk up a valuable political win that will underscore how his foreign policy is often directed by his electoral priorities.”
He can “use his singular televised moment to bolster his claims to be a statesman and a peacemaker, which serves the “vital political interest” Trump has in “keeping alive the idea that he personally headed off war with North Korea and that historic progress is possible as he runs for reelection.”
Collinson predicted Trump “will be praise by conservative media and the reality of US-North Korea relations will be glossed over, all in the service of his 2020 campaign.” He then unfurled several quotes from Democrats seeking the presidency.
Collinson then demonstrated the bitterness that characterizes so much of the media attention given to Trump.
“Since meeting Trump at their first summit in Singapore last year, Kim has done nothing to live up to Pyongyang’s undertaking to ‘work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” he wrote in one paragraph. Then, in the next, he admits, “Though it has suspended nuclear and long-range missile tests, US intelligence and analysts believe that the North is still manufacturing the materials needed to add to its already considerable nuclear arsenal.”
Suspending testing of nuclear and long-range missiles was a key reason for Trump’s outreach to North Korea to begin with.
The New York Times provided another reason for the meeting. Yes, it was “a masterpiece of drama, the kind of made-for-TV spectacle that Mr. Trump treasures.”
But for weeks, wrote Michael Crowley and David Sanger of the Times, something else has been brewing – “a real idea … taking shape inside the Trump administration that officials hope might create a foundation for a new round of negotiations. The concept would amount to a nuclear freeze, one that essentially enshrines the status quo, and tacitly accepts the North as a nuclear power, something administration officials have often said they would never stand for.”
But another CNN story, “New York Times: Trump administration mulling plan that would accept North Korea as a nuclear power” by Devan Cole, included reaction from the Trump administration.
Stephen Biegun, the State Department’s special representative for North Korea, said the deal described in the Times was “’pure speculation’ and that his team was ‘not preparing any new proposal currently’” and that “’What is accurate is not new, and what is new is not accurate.’”
And John Bolton, the national security adviser, tweeted that he read the story “with curiosity,” according to The Times. “’Neither the NSC staff nor I have discussed or heard of any desire to ‘settle for a nuclear freeze by NK,’” he wrote. “’This was a reprehensible attempt by someone to box in the president. There should be consequences.’”
Its main story on the visit – “Trump becomes 1st sitting US leader to enter North Korea” by Zeke Miller and Jonathan Lemire of the Associated Press, stated in the lead that “Trump, pressing his bid for a legacy-defining accord, became the first sitting American leader to step into North Korea.”
The Post pointed to Trump quotes that the situation previously was marked by “tremendous danger” but now “after our first summit, all the danger went away.”
It then said, “But the North has yet to provide an accounting of its nuclear stockpile, let alone begin the process of dismantling is arsenal.”