U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis said on Sunday that Americans should expect a “bumpy road” ahead in negotiations with North Korea over denuclearization. His comments were clearly intended to inject a dose of reality into the media spectacle created by his boss President Donald Trump around the on-again, off-again summit with Kim Jong Un of North Korea.
Mattis spoke at a meeting with South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo and Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera on the final day of the Shangri-La Dialogue security conference.
He was addressing people from South Korea and Japan who are neighbors of the North Korean dictator and who live under a cloud caused by the existence of nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula.
He told his South Korean and Japanese defense minister colleagues that they will need to maintain a very strong defensive stance if the negotiations with North Korea are to be successful. He said that diplomats do better if they can negotiate from a position of strength.
“We can anticipate, at best, a bumpy road to the negotiations,” Mattis said. “In this moment we are steadfastly committed to strengthening even further our defense cooperation as the best means for preserving the peace.”
On Friday Trump met with Kim Yong Chol, who is the top deputy to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. After cancelling the summit last week, Trump now says the June 12th summit in Singapore will come off as planned, although he has not said what he hopes to realistically achieve from the meeting with Kim.
“We’ll be meeting on June 12 in Singapore,” Trump told reporters at the White House after the Friday meeting with the man who has been in charge of the brutal North Korea security apparatus.
Many people with knowledge about and experience with North Korea have said that Trump is rushing to reach a breakthrough deal that would help him politically but hurt the nation. Mattis restated the U.S. Defense Department position that North Korea will not receive relief from U.N. national security sanctions until it shows that it has taken “verifiable and irreversible steps” to reduce its nuclear arsenal.
South Korean Defense Minister Song said that this is a great turning point. “Of course, given North Korea’s past, we must be cautious in approaching this,” he said. He then added that North Korea’s “recent measures give us reasons to be positive and one can be cautiously optimistic as we move forward.”
Japanese Defense Minister Onodera said that military cooperation among the United States and its Asian allies was needed to bring a diplomatic solution.
“Japan, Korea and the U.S. continue to agree that pressure is needed to be applied on North Korea,” Onodera said after the meeting.
The Japanese, along with many Americans, are afraid that in his rush to seek glory and recognition President Trump may sell out his allies and cut a bad deal with the brutal North Korean dictator.
By inviting the despot’s top people to the White House, and agreeing to an unprecedented summit meeting, Trump has already given Kim Jong Un great recognition on the world stage. In effect, Trump has rewarded the North Korean for his past bad behavior, based only on some empty promises about the future.
I am a lifelong Democrat with a passion for social justice and progressive issues. I have degrees in writing, economics and law from the University of Iowa.