Was Trump Right to Walk Away from Kim's Offer?
It depends on his reasons...
The Way Forward
Trump appears to recognize that there is no convincing justification for remaining at war with a hostile nuclear power that keeps asking for peace, as I have argued before. Once we let go of the maximalist fantasy that North Korea would ever fully disarm, it becomes clear that the basic logic of the Hanoi deal served American and allied security. Agreeing to partial sanctions relief for a freeze in North Korean nuclear development is a sensible and equitable trust-building step toward more ambitious agreements. “Trump just walked away from the best North Korea deal he’ll ever get,” concluded nonproliferation expert Jeffrey Lewis. Trump did walk from it, but visibly not to challenge the deal’s fundamental logic. He did so for the legitimate reason of trying to improve it. The North Korean leadership can visibly work with that, to a certain point. They understand the deals they make with the United States will not last if ordinary Americans do not believe in them. Ordinary North Koreans, though, will be forced to bear the brunt of the delay in lifting the sanctions that are crushing them.
Henri Féron is a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Center for Korean Legal Studies, Columbia Law School.