President Trump’s decision to end the summit in Hanoi with North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un caused the mainstream media to have to reverse itself abruptly on Thursday.
On Wednesday, NBC News reported that Trump had given away the store to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un before their summit over denuclearization and other matters even began.
Quoting anonymous sources, Carol E. Lee and Courtney Kube of NBC News reported, “U.S. negotiators are no longer demanding that North Korea agree to disclose a full accounting of its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs as part of the talks this week between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un, according to current and former U.S. officials.”
Negotiators had “focused heavily” on discussions over North Korea’s nuclear reactor at Yongbyon, long known to be the primary source for the fissile material it uses in weapons, NBC News reported. But as “U.S. intelligence assessments have stressed for months,” North Korea “does not intend to fully denuclearize,” Lee and Kube reported.
“This was “the goal Trump set for his talks with Kim,” and “disclosure of a full, verifiable declaration of North Korea’s programs is the issue over which the last round of serious negotiations between Pyongyang and world leaders, including the U.S., fell apart a decade ago.”
But other anonymous sources – referred to as “current and former U.S. officials” – noted, “North Korea has other sites with similar capabilities … and are raising concerns that Pyongyang won’t negotiate on all aspects of its weapons programs if it’s not forced to disclose them.”
The White House refused to comment on the story.
But then on Thursday, when news emerged the president had walked away from the summit rather than sign a deal that didn’t meet his criteria, the media said he failed at dealmaking.
“His Hail Mary pass didn’t work,” wrote Stephen Collinson of CNN in “Trump’s Hanoi Hail Mary failed to score.”
Collinson referred to the summit as “Trump’s attempt at counter-programming,” which he said “failed when the summit broke up early with no agreement.” Collinson failed to note the summit was organized and scheduled before the congressional hearing featuring Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, which itself was an effort at counter-programming.
Making imprudent concessions to get a deal was bad, but leaving without a deal was even worse, Collinson wrote.
“It was embarrassing for the president and a big disappointment to anyone who understands how devastating a war on the Korean peninsula would be and would like to see the world’s last Cold War confrontation consigned to history.”
Instead, he echoed a Democratic Party talking point – that “Washington’s decision to offer Kim equal billing with the world’s most powerful man – a priceless propaganda coup – in two major summits and Trump’s entire impromptu and ego-centric negotiating style is now open to question.”
“Criticism that Trump is engineering summits with North Korea as big photo-ops that are devoid of substance looks more valid after his Hanoi trip. And his ‘art of the deal’ diplomacy has come up empty-handed again.”
Collinson admitted Trump did not come away empty-handed. He left with a handshake and a promise Kim would not resume testing of nuclear weapons, which had the entire world on edge before it was halted in connection with the first summit.
The negotiations were always going to be different, Collinson conceded, and “a case can be made that the US was playing hardball in ending the meeting when it didn’t get what it wanted and refusing to lift sanctions before there is significant denuclearization.”
“Perhaps Trump, who is unpredictable and unorthodox himself, may be about the only president who could forget a relationship with the mercurial Kim, and ultimately will make Americans safer,” Collinson wrote. “But that possibility cannot disguise the serious issues the Hanoi summit’s failure raises about Trump’s approach to North Korea and diplomacy in general.”