A Fizzle

Wag The Dog indeed.

Unidicted Co-conspirator Bottomless Pinocchio has blown his big foreign policy initiative by walking away with a ‘No Deal Brexit’ from his summit in Hanoi, disappointing the most minimal of expectations of agreement to disagree.

‘Sometimes you have to walk’: Trump leaves summit empty-handed at tough point in presidency
By Josh Dawsey and Philip Rucker, Washington Post
February 28, 2019

The Hanoi summit underscored the limits of Trump’s ability to translate the charisma and hustler instincts that made him a wealthy star in New York real estate into the more nuanced realm of international diplomacy. He has faced sharp criticism — including from within his own administration — for his approach, which relies more on style than substance.

“It exposed Trump’s overreliance on personal relationships and it highlighted his tendency to badly under prepare,” said Richard N. Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Haass added that Trump “weakened his own hand by brimming with optimism. It signaled that he wanted an agreement too much, which then, I expect, only increased Kim’s instinct to ask for too much.”

Trump appeared chastened and unusually subdued in his 37-minute news conference here, a marked contrast to the celebratory and freewheeling postgame show he staged in Singapore last summer at the conclusion of his historic first summit with Kim.

He did not joust as he often does with reporters, although he called on a number of journalists from China whose questions were docile relative to some of the ones he fields from the White House press corps.

Even a friendly question from Sean Hannity, the Fox News host who stood with senior White House officials against the wall before Trump encouraged him to inquire, did not perk the president’s mood.

Trump had Secretary of State Mike Pompeo flank him onstage, and even called his top diplomat to the microphone to explain the failure to secure a deal with North Korea, as if he wanted to mount a defense.

Some of Trump’s advisers and aides, including national security adviser John Bolton, warned the president about being so eager for a deal that he hastily makes an unwise concession to the North Koreans, according to people familiar with the internal discussions.

Within some quarters, including among some critics of the president, there was a palpable relief that Trump was willing to walk away. After all, he left without lifting economic sanctions, agreeing to remove U.S. troops from the Korean Peninsula or causing an international incident with an incendiary tweet or stray comment.

Evelyn N. Farkas, a former Obama administration defense official, said the Hanoi summit was “a disaster for Trump personally and, for America, a diminution of our stature.” But, she said there was a silver lining: “He didn’t make a bad deal, and a lot of people feared he would.”

Joseph Yun, who served as U.S. special representative for North Korea from 2016 to 2018 under both Obama and Trump, said, “Trump tried to be nice-nice. It’s a page out of his book, relying on one-on-one negotiations, face-to-face negotiations. But that’s doesn’t work, especially with North Koreans.”

Yun added, “Trump is beginning to realize that North Korea’s not going to completely denuclearize, not now and probably not ever.”

Trump claimed as a victory an assurance from Kim that North Korea would no longer fire nuclear tests, but he seemed to hedge on the definition of denuclearization, and indeed U.S. intelligence agencies have evidence that Pyongyang has sought to conceal its weapons programs despite publicly engaging in denuclearization talks.

Trump’s Talks With Kim Jong-un Collapse Over North Korean Sanctions
By Edward Wong, The New York Times
Feb. 28, 2019

On his flight leaving Hanoi, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said officials had worked through the previous night and into the morning to come up with terms acceptable to both leaders.

“When you are dealing with a country that is of the nature of North Korea, it is often the case that only the most senior leaders have the capacity to make those important decisions,” he said.

“We’ll each need to regroup a little bit,” he added.

There was no immediate statement from Mr. Kim or the North Korean government.

According to the Americans, the sticking point turned on what it would take for the North to begin dismantling a central part of its nuclear program — the Yongbyon enrichment facility. Mr. Kim said he would do so only if all sanctions on his country were lifted.

But Mr. Trump and Mr. Pompeo said the North would have to dismantle other parts of its program as well before the United States agreed to such a big concession.

The United States has long insisted that sanctions will be lifted only after North Korea completely dismantles its nuclear program in a verifiable manner. There was talk before the summit meeting, though, that Mr. Trump might agree to ease sanctions in exchange for initial steps toward denuclearization by allowing joint economic projects between North and South Korea.

It was not immediately clear if Mr. Trump made such an offer or how Mr. Kim responded.

The first sign of the collapse of the talks came after morning meetings, when White House officials said a working lunch and signing ceremony had been canceled.

The White House then issued a statement saying that Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim had “discussed various ways to advance denuclearization and economic-driven concepts” during “very good and constructive meetings,” but failed to reach an agreement.

“I worry about the consequences,” said Jean H. Lee, a Korea expert at the Wilson Center, a research organization in Washington. “Did these two leaders and their teams build up enough good will to keep the lines of communication open, or are we headed into another period of stalled negotiations — or worse, tensions — that would give the North Koreans more time and incentive to keep building their weapons program?”

“This result leaves very little room for Kim to save face,” she added.

Officials from both sides had hoped the Hanoi summit meeting would produce more concrete results than the vague communiqué issued by the two leaders after their first meeting last June in Singapore.

Since that first encounter, American national security officials have said that denuclearization should be the priority, while North Korea has pushed for lifting of sanctions and improving relations with the United States and South Korea first.

The administration of President Moon Jae-in of South Korea appears to have agreed with Mr. Kim that establishing a more stable peace is the first priority, and it has been moving much faster than the United States in opening up diplomatically to the North.

“It is regrettable that they could not reach a complete agreement,” said Kim Eui-kyeom, a spokesman for Mr. Moon. “But it also seems clear that both sides have made more significant progress than ever.”

It is highly unusual to walk away from a summit with nothing. Normally your lower level flunkies have some innocuous statement such as both sides agree Apples fall down (barring some kind of systemic Quantum aberration) and you have a nice lunch and a ceremony.

This was not that.

It bears instead every indication it was thrown together at the last minute as a distraction from Unidicted Co-conspirator Bottomless Pinocchio’s current legal woes and it kind of failed ‘Bigly’ even at such a modest goal.