There's no question the Singapore Summit between President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un has been "historic," as Mr. Trump noted in his press conference. [Click here for full transcript.] Never before have the most senior leaders of the United States and North Korea ever met face to face, and they have certainly never before shaken hands or embraced each other so warmly.
The question concerns the actual motives and intentions of the regime in Pyongyang.
Is North Korea putting on a big show to buy time to build even more advanced and dangerous nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles?
Or is the Chairman truly serious about completely dismantling and abandoning his nuclear weapons program and long-rang ballistic missiles and determined to make a comprehensive and lasting peace with the U.S., South Korea and his Asian neighbors?
Simply put, the Summit has not answered these questions.
As I wrote in a March 9th Tweet: "Count me skeptical. The chances of North Korea truly giving up its nuclear weapons and ICBM development program are low. More likely, Pyongyang is playing for time to complete missiles that can reach the U.S. But President Trump is right to be willing to explore NK intentions."
For now, I stand by this view. I'm not a cynic. If the miracle we have long prayed for is coming to pass and Chairman Kim really proves to be serious, we should all rejoice and thank God and all who worked to make this day possible. But we need to be honest: we simply don't have enough evidence yet to say the danger has passed and peace has come.
The pictures and headlines out of Singapore are remarkable. The details contained in the agreement -- so far -- are less so.
The Japan Times said the agreement "vaguely worded" and "offered no specifics about how the two sides would reach these goals, while also leaving [the term] 'complete denuclearization' undefined."
The Wall Street Journalechoed this assessment. "[T]he document, which Mr. Trump described as 'very comprehensive,' provided almost no particulars on how to make the denuclearization process quick, verifiable or irreversible—often stated U.S. goals."
The Journaladded, "In many ways, the language echoed an agreement signed between North and South Korea in April. It didn’t codify Pyongyang’s unilateral moratorium on nuclear and missile tests, or contain any reference to sanctions relief. It made a general pledge to a security guarantee for North Korea but didn’t offer any specifics or make any mention of the status of U.S. military forces in South Korea."
That said, here are seven things you need to know:
President Trump has vowed that he and his team have studied and absorbed the lessons of previous failed diplomatic efforts with North Korea and are determined not to repeat past mistakes. Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama were not able to persuade Pyongyang to truly make peace. Let's give Mr. Trump sufficient time to prove his deal-making instincts and experience before writing the Summit off as a mere photo-op.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton -- the two advisors working most closely with the President during the Summit and months of negotiations -- are smart, experienced and honorable men. They are vilified by the media and the Left. But I know these men and I believe it's possible that they could actually succeed. At present, they are telling reporters that the Summit will set into motion an accelerated process of denuclearization on the Korean peninsula. Let's be patient and see if this does, in fact, come to pass at all, much less quickly.
The peace process is like a marathon. The race has finally begun. But the runners have only completed the fifth of 26.2 miles. It's been a remarkable five miles, but there is a long way to go.
Any final and comprehensive nuclear agreement that the Trump administration makes with North Korea should be submitted to the U.S. Senate for approval as a formal treaty. Many analysts (myself included) made this argument regarding the Iran nuclear deal (in that case, I argued that it should be submitted yet defeated in the Senate). The principle remains the same here. Any agreement that binds U.S. behavior and affects the national security of the American people must meet with approval by two-thirds of the Senators accountable to those people.
If there is one thing that has defined North Korea's diplomatic process in the past it is the consistent use of deception. In my recent political thriller, The Kremlin Conspiracy, the leaders of Russia and North Korea announce a big "denuclearization" agreement. However, it is a ruse -- a deceptive ploy designed to fool the world to lower their collective guard while laying the groundwork for a Russian-North Korean-Iranian nuclear alliance that is planning to attack the United States, Israel and the Western alliance. Could we be seeing this fictional premise play out in real life? (Indeed, I take the premise even further in my next novel, coming out next March.) Perhaps -- but let's hope not.
Some 25 million souls are enslaved by the North Korean regime -- with no freedom of speech, no freedom to assemble, no freedom of religion or freedom of the press or any other basic human rights. They don't have enough food. They don't have enough fuel. They don't have enough electricity. Whatever happens, let's pray faithfully and consistently for their freedom from tyranny and oppression.
Another 51 million souls live in South Korea. They live in a vibrant democracy, a thriving free market economy, and tens of millions have converted from Buddhism and other religions to faith in Jesus Christ over the past half century. Yet they are under the constant threat of attack from the North. The stakes, therefore, are very high. Let us, therefore, be faithful to pray for all the people of Korea -- that they would be reunified and that the people of the North will finally enter an era of peace, freedom, spiritual revival and economic growth and opportunity enjoyed by their brothers and sisters in the South.